Following this year’s NFL Draft, Fantasy Football Analyst and Wrightway Network Commentator Michael Picarelli highlights some of the key players that will be most impacted (both positively and negatively) from the moves their teams made this offseason.
Matt Ryan | Atlanta Falcons
The rich get richer. An already stacked offense just got ANOTHER weapon. University of Alabama Wide Receiver Calvin Ridley joins Julio Jones, Devonta Freeman, Tevin Coleman, Mohammad Sanu & Austin Hopper to give Matt Ryan everything he needs to regain league MVP form.
Derek Carr | Oakland Raiders
Coach Gruden to the rescue? After a ten-year absence from the NFL, Jon Gruden is back to resurrect (Chris Berman voice) THE RAIDERS. In his first off season in Oakland, Gruden immediately made it a point to surround QB Derek Carr with more. Bolstering there already solid O-line with 1st & 3rd round pick offensive tackles gives them much needed depth and insurance in case the Donald Penn situation gets ugly. Most importantly, the additions of former Green Bay Packer WR Jordy Nelson & former Pittsburgh Steeler WR Martavis Bryant will compliment Amari Cooper for a significant upgrade in the WR department from 2017. With the Raiders defense a bit suspect and Carr now surrounded by more, Gruden hopes to ride his QB back to the top of the NFL.
Jordan Howard | Chicago Bears
It was only a couple weeks ago Jordan Howard had the Twitter-verse in a frenzy by deleting his IG account of all Chicago Bear references & photos, and now he seems to be set up for success in 2018. New Coach Matt Nagy comes to town with the task of creating a new culture in the Windy City, with a new way of doing things and of course a new offense. There isn’t a single other RB on Chicago’s roster that can handle starters carries, meaning Jordan Howard is going to eat! GM Ryan Pace had a VERY busy off season rebuilding his offense to best fit Nagy & 2nd year QB Mitchell Trubisky. Free agent additions of Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel and Trey Burton combined with 2018 2nd round pick OL James Daniels and WR Anthony Miller help make this a unit to watch out for.
Christian McCaffrey | Carolina Panthers
2nd Year RB Christian McCaffrey gets a bump here based upon three factors 1) His second year which means natural progression, as well as game speed adjustment 2) Carolina DID NOT draft a RB in this year’s draft and 3) Departure of Jonathan Stewart and his 200+ touches per year.
JuJu Smith Schuster | Pittsburgh Steelers
2017 was JuJu Smith Schuster’s coming out party. The 21 year old came onto the scene in Pittsburgh around week 8 and hasn’t looked back since. With Pittsburgh’s trade sending WR Martavis Bryant to Oakland for a 3rd round pick in this year’s draft, it’s “official” that Smith Schuster is the #2 WR for the Steelers and PRIMED for a big year.
Odell Beckham Jr. | New York Giants
Entering the last year of his rookie contract, Odell Beckham Jr may be poised for his best season yet. New GM Dave Gettlemen has had a very busy “quiet” off season, all of which will directly benefit OBJ. The Giants will insert at least two new offensive lineman to help protect QB Eli Manning in Nate Soldier, acquired via FA and 2018 2nd rd draft pick Will Hernandez. The addition of 2nd overall pick RB Saquon Barkley makes the play action pass in NY deadly. Not be overlooked is the off season addition of new Head Coach Pat Shurmur- who produced the #2 Passing offense in the NFL in 2017.
Jimmy Graham | Green Bay Packers
Aaron Rogers, Aaron Rogers & Aaron Rogers. My three reasons why Jimmy Graham makes this list. At 31 years old, Jimmy G has enough in the tank for a very productive season. His upgrade from a Seattle offense to a Green Bay Packer offense that has a healthy Aaron Rogers will at least have Jimmy duplicate his 2017 TD total of 10. The departure of Jordy Nelson leaves almost 90 targets available and of course, any/all red zone targets.
Joe Flacco | Baltimore Ravens
Baltimore went HAM this off season by redesigning there WR corp, drafting 2 TE’s in the first three rounds of this years draft and bringing in QB Lamar Jackson with the last pick in the 1st round. The Ravens’ weapons will be upgraded from last year- having newly acquired WRs Michael Crabtree, John Brown, Willie Sneed and the two rookie tight ends to hopefully prevent Flacco from a repeat of 2017 where he finished last in YPA. Most importantly, this is the last year of guaranteed money to Flacco and Baltimore may look to get Jackson involved in the Marty Mornhinweg offense. Jackson might fit in perfectly, given MM’s previous work with QBs Donovan McNabb & Steve Young.
Sam Bradford | Arizona Cardinals
I don’t think this one is going out on a limb too much. The Arizona Cardinals are entering the post-Carson Palmer era and what better way to ease the pain than by trading up in the first round of the 2018 NFL draft to select UCLA QB Josh Rosen, who many believe will be the first rookie to see playing time. Of course, Sammy Sleeves doesn’t help his own case by only playing all 16 games TWICE in his 8 year career. Im sure Arizona will be eager to make 1 final playoff run for Larry Fitzgerald, even if that means with a rookie at the helm.
Chris Carson | Seattle Seahawks
Chris Carson was someone that was going to be a late round gem for me this year, up until Draft Day that is. After a good start in 2017, Carson showed “sleeper” potential for this upcoming year until the Seattle Seahawks surprisingly took San Diego State RB Rashaad Penny with their first pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. Penny is built like a 3rd-down back who has good vision. He is elusive but not the savviest of receivers. Ultimately, I don’t think Seattle will spend a 1st round pick to sit the bench. Penny will get every opportunity to produce early and its gong to come out of Chris Carson’s playing time.
Carlos Hyde | Cleveland Browns
Carlos Hyde did something last year for the first time ever in his 4 year career- he played in all 16 regular season games. Signing with Cleveland early in free agency, Hyde probably assumed he’d only have to split time with RB Duke Johnson. But now welcome 2nd round draft pick RB Nick Chubb and his 225lb frame to help shoulder the load for the Browns. With Hyde ‘s injury concerns and Cleveland’s new-look offense, don’t be surprised to see Chubb as a legitimate Offensive ROY candidate.
Mohamed Sanu | Atlanta Falcons
Running in the slot for Atlanta the last two seasons, Mohammed Sanu averaged 63 catches and 89 targets- but those numbers could dip this year. Atlanta invested there 2018 First round draft pick on highly touted Alabama WR Calvin Ridley. Sanu will likely stay in the slot while Ridley will lineup at the Z opposite Julio Jones to create one of the toughest 3 WR sets to defend in the NFL. Expect Ridley to see single coverage and become a Matt Ryan 3rd down favorite.
Devin Funchess | Carolina Panthers
The Panthers have been one of the more aggressive teams this off season, adding to there WR group former Philadelphia Eagle WR Torrey Smith, along with WR Jarius Wright and drafting WR DJ Moore and 6’5″ TE Ian Thomas. Funchess works best on volume mainly because he isn’t an explosive WR, and I don’t see volume in an offense with this many playmakers.
Evan Engram | New York Giants
I know all the New York Football Giants fans are gonna think I’m crazy and hate me for this, but hear me out. Last year, from a fantasy football perspective, Evan Engram had a PERFECT set up. He is the only TE on that roster they are trying to get the ball to. OBJ missed significant time, Sterling Shepard missed 4 games, the Giants rushing attack was laughable, and to top it all off- they were playing from behind every game which should have lead to TARGETS. Again, from a fantasy perspective he was in a perfect situation so its now time to regress. The re-addition of a healthy WRs Odell Beckham Jr. & Sterling Shepard back into the lineup for 16 games, PLUS 2nd overall pick RB Saquan Barkley, means less targets and less opportunities for Engram.
Michael Picarelli is The Wrightway Network’s Fantasy Football Guru and has been a regular on “The Wrightway” Podcast for years. You can follow him on Twitter @MikePic and check him out as a regular guest and commentator for The Wrightway Network’s weekly columnists and podcasts. Contact him via email- firstname.lastname@example.org!