There weren’t any surprises in the first round of the NFL Draft on Thursday night when it came to the running backs. We expected Leonard Fournette and Christian McCaffrey to be selected in the first 10 overall picks, and that’s what happened.
And it was good for Fantasy owners.
Fournette went at No. 4 overall to Jacksonville, and Carolina selected McCaffrey at No. 8 overall. There was some hope that Dalvin Cook would be drafted in the first round, but it wasn’t a shock to see him fall. And now he’s someone to monitor Friday for the second and third rounds, as well as Joe Mixon.
But Fournette was always expected to be the No. 1 running back drafted, and he steps into a good situation with the Jaguars. Even though they have Chris Ivory and T.J. Yeldon on the roster, Fournette is going to start right away, and he projects as a No. 2 Fantasy running back in the majority of leagues.
Jacksonville’s offensive line is shaky at best and was ranked No. 22 last year by Pro Football Focus, although adding left tackle Branden Albert in a trade with Miami should help. And the Jaguars defense should definitely be better with free agents Calais Campbell, A.J. Bouye and Barry Church.
Don’t expect Jacksonville to be chasing points in 2017 as much as in previous years, which will help the run game. And that should help Blake Bortles as well.
Fournette showed he was a beast at LSU with 616 carries for 3,830 yards (6.2-yards per carry) and 40 touchdowns and 41 catches for 526 yards and one touchdown over three years. He averaged at least 5.5-yards per carry in each season.
His receiving skills need work, but Yeldon can handle that for the Jaguars. Fournette is going to work on first and second down, and he’s definitely going to get the touchdown chances. He’s worth drafting in Round 4 in standard leagues and Round 6 in PPR.
Ivory now has minimal Fantasy value and is not worth drafting in any leagues after the draft. And Yeldon is still worth a late-round flier, especially in PPR leagues.
McCaffrey should work in tandem with Jonathan Stewart in Carolina, but there’s more upside for the rookie from Stanford. He was a beast in college with consecutive years of at least 1,900 total yards and 13 total touchdowns over the past two seasons.
Stewart could still remain the starter, but Fantasy owners are well aware that he’s injury prone. And even if McCaffrey is in a secondary role, he’s still going to get plenty of touches.
This is a great move for Cam Newton, who should benefit with dump-off passes to McCaffrey out of the backfield. And McCaffrey should be among the league leaders in receptions if the Panthers use him the right way.
McCaffrey is worth drafting as a No. 2 Fantasy running back in Round 5 in standard leagues, but he’s a potential Round 4 pick in PPR. And Stewart is now a No. 3 option worth a mid-round pick, but don’t expect him to disappear because he should still have the chance to score touchdowns when healthy.
Fournette is the better Fantasy option of the two rookies that were drafted in the first round, at least in standard leagues. But McCaffrey is going to do well with the Panthers, especially in PPR.
Fournette should be the No. 1 player selected in rookie-only drafts, but McCaffrey won’t be far behind. His draft status in those leagues could be determined by where Cook and Mixon go, but we have to wait to see where those running backs end up.