The first day of the NFL draft was a fun one for fantasy purposes as we saw the snow globe of the wide receiver position continue to shake this offseason. We had six wide receivers selected in the first round on Thursday, with another two young stars changing teams as part of the evening.
With that, we are going to walk through the fantasy-centric selections and trades of the opening night.
In arguably the biggest move of day one for fantasy, the Eagles pulled off a trade for A.J. Brown, signing him to a massive extension immediately afterward as part of the deal.
Brown teased us once again with the upside he holds in 2021. Brown was fourth among all wide receivers in the league in target rate per route run (29.1%), but once again missed time (four games) while being saddled in a low-volume passing offense.
Brown gave us moments that reminded us of his upside when healthy with games 10-155-1, 8-133-1, 11-145-1, and a 5-142-1 in the playoffs, but he also had another seven full games played with fewer than 50 yards receiving. Brown was able to average a career-high 8.1 targets per game, but that still forced efficiency more than his WR1 peers as it ranked 16th at the position.
Brown will once again be tasked to rely on efficiency to carry water for him, joining an Eagles team that found their offensive stride in 2021 when they dialed back their offense through the air.
Jalen Hurts rushed for 784 yards and 10 touchdowns this past season while showcasing a strong fantasy floor, but still needs to show more growth as a passer in year three to be the long-term answer for the Eagles and give us confidence that he can float elite talents in fantasy. Hurts closed 2020 41st in completion rate (61.3%) while second to last in the league in expected completion percentage (61.5%).
Hurts is the biggest winner from a fantasy stance here.
Eagles wide receivers ranked dead last in the NFL in targets per game (13.7) and 31st in yards per game (117.2). Philadelphia ended up ranking 29th in the league in success rate (46%) targeting their wide receivers while only DeVonta Smith (53%) had a success rate over 50%.
Smith accounted for 43.5% of the Philadelphia wide receiver targets (sixth at his position), something sure to come down with the addition of a target-earner in Brown.
Smith (64-916-5) proved he can be a lead receiver with a diverse route tree right away as he demonstrated in college. While the talent is clearly here, we still have to question whether or not his immediate situation paired with Brown and the potential schematic limitations Hurts could place on the offense is going to delay his fantasy stardom from matching that displayed talent.
Smith played in an offense that was 29th in the league in pass attempts per game and was attached to a quarterback that was 28th in the league in expected completion percentage. That combination ended up placing Smith 52nd among receivers in receptions per game (3.8) without Brown on the roster and left us with a lot of lean fantasy weeks. Smith cleared six targets in a game just six times as a rookie, posting nine weeks as the WR52 or lower as a byproduct.
Even Dallas Goedert takes a small hit, although his positional depth allows a much softer landing.
After Zach Ertz was traded after Week 6, Goedert ran a pass route on 79.7% of the Philadelphia dropbacks (a mark that would have been third over the full season) while commanding 24.5% of the Eagle targets in his games played (which would have ranked second). Goedert showed big play ability, posting a career-high 14.8 yards per reception and 10.9 yards per target.
The only blemish here is that the Eagles’ run-first offense still limited his raw totals to just 24.6 routes run and 6.2 targets per game over that span, which had him 16th in expected points per game (10.0) over that same span. He was able to clear seven targets in just two of those games. Goedert is a bit of a discounted version of George Kittle if the Eagles remain so limited through the air, but still a mid-TE1 option capable of spike weeks at a limited position.