By Brendan Taffe
The 1st selection of Day 2 of the NFL draft heads to Cincinnati to join the man who beat him in the college football national championship last year. The Bengals wasted no time in getting QB Joe Burrow a new weapon. They are in a difficult division, having to face the Ravens, Steelers, and Browns defenses each twice a year, so adding even more offensive talent was smart. Higgins gets to learn from 7x Pro Bowl WR AJ Green, who turns 31 this summer. Green has had injury issues throughout his career, especially recently. With WR Tyler Boyd the only other real competition for targets, Higgins should have no problem stepping into a starting role as soon as Green is injured or off the team due to his expiring contract. This will be an offense that will need to throw out of necessity because their defense is arguably one of the worst in the league. The opportunity is there for Higgins, and he is tied to the QB who had the best college football season of all time.
Because of how deep this draft class is for receivers, Mims was the 13th pass-catcher off the board but drafted in the second round. He lands with the Jets and joins arguably the worst receiving corps in the league. For this reason, though, he will have plenty of opportunities to nail down a role in this offense. Breshad Perriman, a field stretcher, and Jamison Crowder, a slot receiver, are the only two notable receivers on this team, so Mims can step right in and be an alpha for QB Sam Darnold. Based on pure talent, Mims is one of the top receivers in this class. He fell in the draft partly due to a broken hand he played with all of last year, which largely factored into dropped passes and his ability to play with power, his two most significant question marks. He is still raw, but his profile is similar to Seattle WR D.K. Metcalf, who looks to be an up and coming star at the position. With an offensive line that is still a work in progress, and a seemingly inept head coach in Adam Gase, Mims should be very inconsistent this year. If fantasy owners are willing to wait a year, though, he could quickly be a boon for Darnold but wise investors.
The third reigning champ of the 1st round goes to the Vikings at 22 overall. Jefferson lands in a great spot, and he can immediately slide into WR Stefon Diggs’ old starting role. Diggs brings his 1130 yards and 6 touchdowns to Buffalo, so now Olabisi Johnson and Tajae Sharpe are the only other receivers of note besides Adam Theilen. With still a top ten defense and an offense based on the run game, the Vikings do not throw as much as some other teams. However, QB Kirk Cousins threw for 3600 yards with 26 touchdowns last year, so there is plenty of opportunities for Jefferson to rack up stats out of the slot. Jefferson can be an immediate contributor to your fantasy team, and his future outlook is bright too. 2020 is Theilen’s age 30 season, and the Vikings have a potential out of his contract after this year. Jefferson is one of the few receivers of this draft who may find himself as the #1 receiver on his team as early as next year.
Aiyuk was the 6th receiver taken in the first round as the 49ers’ second first-round selection. Aiyuk himself should be thrilled he gets to go to the reigning NFC Champs and gets to play for Kyle Shanahan in an offense known for creating space and just getting the ball to the playmakers to do work. For fantasy owners, however, the Niners aren’t as much of a dream spot for receivers as one may think. For starters, the offense is built upon the run game. We just saw in last year’s playoffs that they could take undrafted free agent RB Raheem Mostert and turn him into a bellcow power runner. In the passing game, though, TE George Kittle is the definitive #1 target, and Aiyuk joins a receiver room headlined by 2019 second-rounder Deebo Samuel and 2019 third-rounder Jalen Hurd. The only receiver who I see as being a viable starting option week to week is Kittle. The Niners got to Super Bowl LIV on the strength of their defense and their relentless run game, and as long as Jimmy Garoppolo is under center, I do not see that changing.
As the 10th wide receiver off the board, Hamler joins a now crowded room in Denver. The Broncos used their second-round pick on Hamler, after taking route running savant Jerry Jeudy in the first round, and added TE Albert Okwuegbunam in the 4th. These rookies join 2019 1st round pick TE Noah Fant, and 2018 2nd round pick WR Courtland Sutton. All of them will now fight for targets from QB Drew Lock, who the Broncos drafted 42nd overall last year. Surrounding Lock with this much talent is a good idea considering the Broncos are looking upwards in their division at the Chiefs, and also face the vaunted Chargers defense twice per year. From a fantasy perspective, however, I am not sure there will be enough to go around. Sutton is the de facto WR1, and Jeudy is one of the best receiver prospects of the last few years. Fant already has a rapport with Lock and is talented in his own right. Last year, running backs Royce Freeman and Phillip Lindsay saw 100 combined targets, and the duo is now joined by Melvin Gordon, who earned 55 targets in 12 games last year. Hamler is a talented slot receiver in Tavon Austin’s mold, but with so many mouths to feed, it is hard for me to envision him becoming much of a factor for your fantasy team.
Jefferson, the 12th receiver off the board, will start his rookie campaign as a twenty-four-year-old for the Rams. For comparison, established stars DJ Moore and Juju Smith-Shuster will still be twenty-three years old this season. He sits behind wide receivers Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods, and Josh Reynolds, as well as tight-ends Tyler Higbee and Gerald Everett. The Rams’ first two picks of this year’s draft were Cam Akers, a running back out of Florida State, and Jefferson. These picks were surprising considering the number of other, more critical positions on the roster that need attention. Reaching for Jefferson in the second round could mean the Rams liked him so much they will be willing to let Kupp walk in free agency next year, although it is a risky bargain that he can fill Kupp’s shoes. With significant issues along the offensive line, this is not the same, innovative offensive that got them to Super Bowl LIII. Jefferson will need Kupp to walk, and the offense itself to take a step forward before he sees any relevant fantasy value. By that time, he will be much older than other, more promising receivers; therefore, he should not be on your radar.
Brendan Taffe – Dynasty/Superflex
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