From April 30th to March 2nd, the eyes of the football world will fall upon Chicago and the NFL draft. Players who have spent years preparing for this moment will realize their dreams, and will have a new future playing the game that we all love.
With this new crop of players, comes new hope to their respective teams, fans, and fantasy owners. For fantasy owners, the big question will be how those players will affect their 2015 plans. Will a new lineman help a bad run game? Will a new running back on a team replace someone that we have relied upon in past years? Will that first round have an impact like it did in 2013 or like it did in 2014 when rookie receivers took the league by storm?
We will not know until the season starts and players hit the field, who will actually make an impact in 2015 – if anyone will at a skill position. There will be players that come out of nowhere to excel (probably a running back), and there will be players that highly disappoint in fantasy circles. Over the next two weeks I will highlight a few players to keep your eyes on for fantasy purposes. Their situations and fantasy relevance will completely depend on where they land, and the depth chart of the team that they end up with, but are players that you should keep tabs on.
Marcus Mariota – Quarterback
Mariota has all the physical tools to make an impact right away with a strong arm, size, and mobility. He needs some work in the pocket running what will be a more pro-style offense (unless Philly jumps to get him, in which case he will be running a very familiar offense). He will need to learn to read defenses as he is very used to throwing to wide open receivers. He has a chance to make an impact for fantasy purposes in his rookie year depending in where he lands, but don’t put all your hopes on him as an every week starter.
Jameis Winston – Quarterback
Big arm – check. Accuracy – check. Mobility – check. Winner – check. Winston has it all, and has the ability to make an instant impact in fantasy football, provided he has some weapons in his rookie year (throwing to Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson sure would be good weapons). The elephant in the room for Winston though, is whether he can handle the spotlight and money and stay out of trouble. In today’s NFL, where players seem to have a harder and harder time staying out of trouble, it will be interesting to see if Winston can keep his name off the police radar. Of the rookie quarterbacks coming in, Winston would have the most upside in fantasy football.
Melvin Gordon – Running Back
Should Gordon fall to the bottom of the first round, as some are saying that he might, and he lands on a team that already has talent, he can make an impact immediately in fantasy circles in 2015. Gordon has size, and has the explosive element needed to make a big play every time he touches the ball. He has shown the ability to make plays in the receiving game, and once he improves more in that aspect, he can be an immediate contributor. I have high hopes for Gordon in 2015, and think that he will be highest scoring rookie from the 2015 class in fantasy points.
Todd Gurley – Running Back
Gurley has the size, speed, and vision to make an immediate impact in fantasy football in 2015. As a running back he will most likely get immediate touches, but if he lands on a team with big quarterback problems, you may want to temper expectations. He caught only 12 passes in 2014, so he will need to improve on that before he can be an every down back. In the current state of fantasy football, the best running backs are also great receivers. If he can show that he is a good receiver in camps, he has a chance to be a starter on fantasy teams in 2015.
Maxx Williams – Tight End
Williams is a player whose fantasy value might depend the most on where he is drafted. Should he make the end of the first round and land on a team with an established pass game and quarterback, he might make an impact right away. Should he go near the top of the second round to a team that is still establishing a pass game, he might have very limited use in fantasy in 2015. Maxx is big at 6-4, and with his speed he is a mismatch for linebackers in pass coverage. On a team that already has weapons on the outside, Maxx could end up being a steal for fantasy owners. In college he was on a run first team, and we may not have seen his best yet.
This column was written by Ryan Thyer. Follow him on Twitter: @BigNoahD05