We will not dive into every single selection in the second and third rounds like we did the opening night, but let’s touch on the second day of the draft through a fantasy lens.
Breece Hall Selected by the Jets
The top back in the class came off the board at pick 36, with the Jets trading up to grab Breece Hall. The NFL had few landing spots with completely barren backfields for Hall to land, so there were always strong odds that he would end up in a spot already tangible back on the roster.
While Michael Carter posted a solid rookie season in which his 5.3 yards per touch ranked 15th among backs with 100 or more touches, the investment in Hall the following year is an example of why we always preach that archetypes matter to coaching staffs. You have to be extremely special as a fringe 200-pound back to knock down the door to be a feature back in the NFL in the eyes of coaches. And if you are a day three pick in that boat like Carter was a year ago, you have added hurdles to vault regularly at the start of your career.
While Carter is a good back, he also profiles as a compact satellite back that shared time as a rookie with Ty Johnson and Tevin Coleman, playing 60% of the snaps or more in just three games.
Hall will surely concede some work to Carter and many will harp on the staff in New York coming from a coaching tree that has regularly shuffled in bodies at the position with success. The large signal here based on draft capital, equity forfeited, size, and production all favor Hall as the back to invest in here for fantasy.
In recent seasons, we have seen players like Jonathan Taylor, Nick Chubb, J.K. Dobbins, D’Andre Swift, Javonte Williams, Cam Akers, and A.J. Dillon all be selected in the second round of the draft in immediate situations with shared touches. Check your local dynasty rankings. Those are all backs that also immediately increased their market value despite shared year one touches and reside at the top of the position.
Now, Carter is also on a rookie contract while a number of those players shared opportunity with a veteran back to add a wrinkle here, but don’t lose a ton of sleep if you had Hall as the top back in this class and he did not land in a spot like Atlanta or Houston, that was completely devoid of talent.
Seahawks Continue to Establish It
Five picks after Hall came off the board, the Seahawks grabbed arguably the best runner in this class in Kenneth Walker.
Walker exploded for 1,725 yards and 19 scores with the Spartans in 2021. Walker averaged a career-high 6.3 yards per touch, living on big runs. He was second in class in rate of runs to gain 15 or more yards (11.5%) while a class-high 53.9% of his rushing yardage came on those carries. Walker also did this while facing loaded boxes on 19.9% of his carries, the sixth-highest rate in the class.
Seattle is another spot that has immediate competition for touches in year one. Rashaad Penny returned to the team after a massive close to the 2021 season, but we also have a very limited sample of him staying on the field through four years in the league.
We are still waiting to see if Chris Carson is able to return to the field this season from a neck injury. But the only running back on the roster currently signed beyond this season in Seattle is DeeJay Dallas. Walker can come in and immediately push Penny for touches while potentially taking over.
We have always regarded Hall and Walker in a clear tier of their own among the running back prospects in this class, but there has long been a wide debate on who was going to be the third running back off the board this year.
That back ended up being James Cook, the only other back to be selected in the second round when he went to the Bills.
Cook has been hyper-efficient per touch over his career (7.5 yards) due to the types of touches he gets paired with the Georgia environment. The hallmark of Cook’s game comes in the passing game, averaging 10.9 yards per reception over his career while averaging 1.63 yards per route in 2021, fourth in this class.
The Bills have explored adding a dynamic pass catcher out of the backfield in each of the past two offseasons. Travis Etienne thought he was going to be selected by the Bills if the Jaguars didn’t select him a year ago, while Buffalo had a deal worked out with veteran J.D. McKissic during the legal tampering period before he reconsidered and returned to Washington.
Buffalo has only targeted their running backs 14% and 16% the past two seasons (both 27th in the league), but they also have not had a back that has added a lot to the offense in that department.
Out of 68 qualifying running backs, Singletary ranked 67th and Moss 56th in receiving grade per Pro Football Focus. Moss was 41st among that group in yards per route run (1.11) while Singletary was 67th (0.61).
Moss is also the only running back in Buffalo signed beyond this season, so the door is open for Cook to run into added opportunity in one of the league’s best offenses. While the Bills are not a team that stacks league-leading production for backs as a whole, we have seen when they turn the backfield over to just one player that those guys have crushed for fantasy.
Now, I just talked about archetypes mattering big picture, which is the one potential bugaboo for Cook. At 199 pounds, Cook was 11 pounds lighter than his brother Dalvin at the combine and regularly shared work over his collegiate career. Even if Cook does hit Year 1, it very well could be in a fashion like we just discussed with Michael Carter. The good news is that Cook carries that second-round draft capital.
The Quarterbacks are Who We Thought They Were
After Kenny Pickett was the only quarterback selected in the first round, one of the biggest storylines of day two was when and where the other quarterbacks regarded at the top of this class would be selected.
Not a single one went in the second round, matching 2000 as the last time just one passer was selected in the opening two rounds of the draft. That year, Chad Pennington was selected at pick 18, with the next quarterback selected 65th overall. This year, the second quarterback was picked 74th, with Desmond Ridder heading to Atlanta.
The NFL has told us this entire offseason that this was not a desirable draft class based on how teams filled the position prior to this weekend and they backed it up in investment.
That said, even though these passers take a huge hit in SuperFLEX formats and probability of hitting at the NFL level, the ones selected on Day 2 still all fell into the situations many projected they would, just with far less investment.
Ridder and Matt Corral land in spots where they are still good bets to get starts in their rookie seasons based on the probability that neither the Falcons nor Panthers will be good enough real teams to prevent them from at least taking a look at what they have in these quarterbacks prior to next offseason. We just saw this play out with Davis Mills last year.
Malik Willis has a muddier path to playing time but releasing Ryan Tannehill can save the team $18 million after this season. There is at least a non-zero chance of that outcome playing out if this season is another struggle. Tennessee also had one of the worst backup situations in the league.
Best WR Landing Spots Day 2
Since I have already run long here, I will bullet-point my favorite landing spots for the wideouts on Friday.
- Skyy Moore gets the enticing attachment to Patrick Mahomes while Marquez Valdes-Scantling is the only Kansas City wideout currently signed past this season.
- Heading to Green Bay, Chrisitan Watson checks a lot of boxes in terms of size, athleticism, strong quarterback play, and opportunity, all things he needs to overcome an unflattering list of recent non-early-declare, non-Power 5 wideouts selected in the second round.
- George Pickens was the 11th wide receiver selected in the draft, but he falls into the most successful franchise in grooming receiving prospects. Chase Claypool and Gunner Olszewski are the only current wideouts signed in Pittsburgh beyond 2022 while the team has no tangible competition out of the box for Pickens to earn snaps in 3WR sets.
- Things are wide open in Indianapolis behind Michael Pittman for Alec Pierce to contribute. Pittman had 60 more than any other Colts player in 2021. That player was Zach Pascal, who is no longer with the team while veteran T.Y. Hilton still remains a free agent.
- Jalen Tolbert lands on a Dallas roster that lost 25.4% of the team receptions, 29.6% of the receiving yards, and 35% of the receiving touchdowns in 2021 from Amari Cooper and Cedrick Wilson exiting. Michael Gallup suffered an ACL injury in early January. Only James Washington was added in free agency.
- Securing Day 2 draft investment, David Bell keeps hope alive for the wishful comparisons to Keenan Allen and Jarvis Landry as productive wideouts with bottom-rung measurables while avoiding what happened to Tylan Wallace and Tyler Johnson the previous two seasons. The Browns have an immediate opening for Bell to play as a big slot right away while getting attachment to Deshaun Watson big picture.