In Part I of this two-part series, I not only discussed how the fantasy value of established NFL players will likely be affected by the 2014 rookie draft class, I predicted how the 2014 draft will affect said players’ ADP in this summer’s fantasy drafts. Again, NFL drafts show the public how teams see themselves in the mirror and how the address those needs. It not only says a lot about the player they select, but often (not always) how they feel about a player(s) currently on the roster. Take a look at Part II:
*Author’s Note: All ADPs are taken from FantasyFootballCalculator.com
Marques Colston- Prediction: ADP Falls, Value Unchanged
Marques Colston is a warrior. Despite a sincere multitude of lower-body injuries, he has continued to not only play (4 total missed games from 2009-2013) but produce as well. 2013 was the first time Colston played more than 11 games and finished with less than 1,000 yards and 7 touchdowns. Turning the main pass-catching role over to Jimmy Graham, the soon-to-be 31 year old Colston’s days of 130+ targets are over. Add in the Saints drafting Brandin Cooks, and all this should be enough to scare owners away from Marques Colston this summer.
Give a lot of thought to the rest, but think almost nothing about Cooks when discussing the fantasy value of Marques Colston. While Cooks was brought in to play some slot (Colston’s bread and butter), he will go toward replacing Lance Moore and Darren Sproles more than supplanting Colston. With Kenny Stills playing the clear-out/deep threat role in the offense, Cooks will likely see about 100-110 targets this season. Moore and Sproles combined for 108 receptions last season- there is plenty to go around this season in the Saints offense, and I don’t think the drafting of Cooks affects Colston’s value in the slightest.
Ben Tate- Prediction: ADP Falls Slightly, Value Decreases Heavily
For years, Ben Tate was in the shadow of Arian Foster. It could even be said that Ben Tate could have been Arian Foster if not for a season-ending injury as a rookie. After the Texans traded up to draft him in the 2nd round, he was the favorite to start before breaking his ankle in the preseason opener. Foster went on to become a fantasy god from 2010-2012 while Tate has been relegated to backup duties. But finally as a free agent, Tate landed in a seemingly perfect spot for a ball carrier- Cleveland. “Finally,” he must’ve thought, “I’m the true alpha dog at the running back position.”
His joy was short-lived after the Browns drafted Terrance West out of Towson- a favorite of many draftniks who’s been compared to Alfred Morris, and we all know how much new Browns OC Kyle Shanahan loved Morris in Washington. Ben Tate has missed a whopping 24 games since being drafted in 2010, and the Browns needed insurance. But this seems like more than that. Trading up to draft West, the Browns sent a message to Tate: even if you stay healthy, you are going to have to earn that starting position. Not only do I think West is going to give Tate a run for his money for the starting job, I think at worst he sees 10-12 carries per game even as a backup. Tate’s shot at being a workhorse evaporated as soon as the Browns drafted West, and the Browns know Tate can perform as a backup. His ADP may only fall slightly because he is the starter on paper, but I believe that Tate’s fantasy prospects took a major, major hit with the arrival of Terrance West.
Riley Cooper- Prediction: ADP Unchanged, Value Decreases
After his disastrous rant as a country concert where he used some unsavory racial language, I wrote off Riley Cooper for done. Even his own teammates spoke out against him. But as Nick Foles began to click, so did Riley Cooper: over his last 11 games, he averaged a solid 67 yards per game with 7 touchdowns. Mainly a jump ball specialist, he earned Eagles’ trust to the tune of a career-high 84 targets in 2013. After the season ended, many began to ponder what could happen if his target total progressed to the 110+ area.
But after the Eagles traded for Darren Sproles and drafted Jordan Matthews in the 2nd round, all hopes for a WR2/3-type season are likely gone as they also welcome back Jeremy Maclin. While I don’t believe Jordan Matthews will be a consistent fantasy producer in 2014, the fact the Eagles drafted him so early shows that they don’t believe they were set at wideout for 2014- a troubling prospect for existing receivers on a run-first team. Looking through all the hype, Cooper only caught 47 passes last season. With many more mouths to feed this year, I don’t see a huge leap in production/breakout coming for Riley Cooper.
Steven Jackson- Prediction: ADP Falls Slightly, Value Decreases Heavily
Sadly, it was only a matter of time: the wheels finally came off for Steven Jackson. With a late 2nd round ADP in 2013, owners expected a big jump in efficiency and touchdowns as he went from perennial stinker St. Louis to explosive Atlanta. But he reached the age-30 cliff, and set or tied 8-year lows (since his rookie season) in games, attempts, yards, and receptions. With an ADP ahead of players like Pierre Thomas, Darren Sproles, Eric Decker, Michael Floyd, Reggie Wayne and Jason Witten, people seem to be forgetting that not only does Jackson turn 31 in July, the Falcons drafted Devonta Freeman out of Florida State.
The top-rated 2014 rookie running back by Rotoworld draft guru Josh Norris, Freeman possess running skills as well as pass-blocking and receiving skills- something vital when calculating rookie playing time at running back. Jacquizz Rodgers has never been and will never be a featured back, and the drafting of Freeman signifies (at the very least) the beginning of the end for Steven Jackson. It wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if Freeman played a nearly equal amount of snaps as Jackson as soon as Week 1, and I’m convinced that whatever upside Steven Jackson possessed for 2014 disappeared with the Devonta Freeman selection. I now have an even stronger view of him as a weak, touchdown-dependent flex.
Zac Stacy- Prediction: ADP Falls Slightly, Value Increases
After watching the Daryl Richardson experiment explode in their faces for the first month of the season, the Rams turned their offense over to the no-nonsense, north-south rookie Zac Stacy. He responded with 969 yards and 8 total touchdowns over the last 12 games, providing RB1-type production at the cost of a late round pick. But after the Rams selected Tre Mason, who oozes with running talent, it raised a few questions. Some people even believe that Stacy’s starting job may even be in danger.
But I sincerely believe that the drafting of Tre Mason is not a huge threat to the fantasy value of Zac Stacy. Rather, the Rams draft as a whole (as evidenced by their selection of run-game mauler Greg Robinson with the 2nd pick) is indicative of what they want to do on offense: run the ball. Jeff Fisher has no qualms about running up the rushing attempt totals for his featured running backs, as evidenced by Eddie George, Travis Henry, and Chris Johnson. Make no mistake: Zac Stacy is the starter, and will be come Week 1 barring injury. Many people forget that Tre Mason may need wrist surgery, and is ridiculously inexperienced and raw in the passing game. I really hope people worry about Tre Mason during fantasy football drafts this summer- that way, I can snag Zac Stacy at a discount. The 2014 NFL draft didn’t weaken Zac Stacy’s fantasy value- it strengthened it.