“There’s talk on the street; it sounds so familiar.
Great expectations, everybody’s watching you.
People you meet, they all seem to know you.
Even your old friends treat you like your something new.
Johnny come lately, the new kid in town.
Everybody loves you, so don’t let them down.”
The Eagles(band) had a take on the impact of the draft for dynasty football, they might not have intended the song to have that meaning but the lyrics sure seem relevant as the 2018 draft wraps up. As teams have selected a new slate of players there are veterans wondering how they will be impacted.
Will the veterans be sent to the bench?
Will they see a reduced role, or move into a timeshare?
Will they be shown the door altogether?
Lots of questions and possible outcomes. Let’s take a look at a few that interest me.
Washington Redskins – The new kid is Derrius Guice, a running back in the Beast Mode tradition who dropped to the 4th round due to some off-field issues that arose very late in the process. The upside for the Redskins is that they are able to grab a first-round talent who will come into camp with a chip on his shoulder looking to prove the doubters. The downside, Guice could fall apart off the field and prove the doubters right. He wouldn’t be the first player with a ton of talent to not pan out for non-football reasons. The other side of the coin is the veterans – Chris Thompson, Rob Kelley and Samaje Perine, Byron Marshall and Kapri Bibbs. Last year was a breakout season for Chris Thompson, he was effective in the running game when given carries and exploded onto the scene as a pass catcher. Rob Kelley started the year as the lead back but ended up on IR with a high ankle sprain opening the door for Samaje Perine who literally fumbled the opportunity away. That is not to say Perine didn’t flash some of the power that made him a star at Oklahoma but his rookie year was inconsistent. Perine and Kelley both offer little in the passing game. Marshal and Bibbs are special teams/depth players. I think Perine will put up a fight, but in the end the new kid, Guice is just a superior talent and will become the starter early if he keeps it together off of the field. Thompson will return from his injury to the third down/2-minute role. I think Guice will be a low-end RB2 if Thompson stays healthy.
Detroit Lions – The new kid is running back Kerryon Johnson, he shows good wiggle in the hole with patience and burst who showed the ability to will his way to yards at times last year. Johnson has already expressed an openness to being a committee back but I’m not so sure that wasn’t just showing he can be a good teammate. You don’t show the fight he did last year without having a bit of alpha dog heart inside. The downside is that maybe the committee comments really showed that he is ok being a part-time player. That is not a trait you want to see in a number one back. I want a guy who believes he can get me that first down whether it is 1 yard or 30 yards.
So, who is in Detroit already? Detroit has been the epitome of a running back by committee the past few years and it looks like this year will be more of the same. The question is how will the touches be doled out? The Lions brought in thumper LeGarrette Blount this year. Blount is familiar with Detroit’s new coach Matt Patricia and may provide him with a sense of security when it comes to closing out games. Theo Riddick is a passing down back extraordinaire but has started to show a tendency to get injured. The underwhelming Ameer Abdullah returns again but unless there are injuries I expect him to be fourth on the depth chart if he makes the team. Tion Green and Dwayne Washington will fight it out for the last running back spot for the Lions. What does all of this mean for Kerryon Johnson this year? Well, I think Blount and Johnson split the early down work with Riddick maintaining the passing game touches. Johnson will be frustrating to own this year, he is going to have some games where he pops off. Will you be lucky enough to have started him those weeks is the question? I give Johnson an RB 4 grade, but it will be comprised of some RB 1/2 weeks mixed in with some weeks he scores you a zero.
Cleveland Browns – The new kids, yes there are many on the Browns, quarterback Baker Mayfield, running back Nick Chubb and wide receiver Antonio Callaway. Let’s start with Mayfield, the number one pick in the 2018 draft. He brings the most accurate arm in the draft, the ability to get the ball downfield and can make plays on the move outside the pocket. Mayfield also brings an intensity that burns like a white-hot sun. You either love him or hate him, there is not a lot of in between. In college he had a couple off-field incidents that bring his judgment into question, there are also a couple on-field incidents – most notably the crotch grab versus Kansas. But, the kid has moxie. Mayfield walked on and won the starting quarterback jobs at Texas A&M and at Oklahoma. The Browns traded for Tyrod Taylor to be the starter at quarterback this year. Taylor was acquired for a third-round pick, not cheap but not the kind of price that guarantees a starting job. Taylor and Mayfield have a similar style of play with Taylor being a bit more mobile and Mayfield a bit more accurate. I think the head will tell the Browns to sit Mayfield this year to get some seasoning, but the heart will watch Mayfield take control of the job and where Taylor will be cautious and play not to lose Mayfield plays to win, every game, every series, every play and I think that wins him the starting job. There will be growing pains but he will finish in the QB 10-16 range this year.
New guy Nick Chubb is going to have a bigger challenge. Chubb plays with power and the determination gleaned from coming back from a serious knee injury during his sophomore year. Chubb caught 18 passes his freshman year but only 13 the rest of his career. There is an opportunity for him to surprise in that area, but his bread and butter is power running. At 225 pounds he will get you the tough yards and with a 4.53 forty, he can pull away when he has a crease. Chubb has pretty good vision and is a capable blocker. The veterans in the stable are newly signed Carlos Hyde, pass catcher deluxe Duke Johnson and a couple other guys. Hyde was signed as a free agent this offseason after four years in San Francisco where he started 36/50 games, averaged 4.2 ypc and caught 109 passes. I think Hyde is the ceiling for Chubb and makes sense as a backup that can step in without missing a beat. I think Hyde holds onto the job in a 70/30 split of the ground game touches. Duke Johnson, on the other hand, is one of the best at what he does and his role is secure. Nick Chubb’s 2018 is going to be one that shows flashes of what might be but unless Hyde is injured Chubb is not going to be much of a fantasy producer. He will be one to stash on your bench as Johnson is a free agent next year and Hyde is only on a 2-year contract that won’t cost a lot to get out of next year.
Lastly for the Browns new guys is wide receiver Antonio Callaway, a first-round talent that has been a knucklehead off the field with credit card fraud issues and positive drug tests. Callaway is entering the league already in the drug program after testing positive for marijuana at the NFL combine. The climb to relevance for Callaway is steeper than Mayfield and Chubb. A fluid and explosive athlete he will have to compete with Josh Gordon, Jarvis Landry, Duke Johnson, Corey Coleman and David Njoku for targets. A strong running game further diminishes his opportunity. Callaway is really in a tough spot because after years of futility the Browns seem to have put together a good offensive team with depth at wide receiver. Callaway will make the team and contribute on special teams. He will be fighting with Coleman and Njoku for catches as the fourth or fifth option in the passing game. Callaway is a taxi squad player for 2018.
Denver Broncos – The new kids – running back Royce Freeman, wide receivers Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton. Freeman was a four-year starter at Oregon who racked up a lot of carries, which concerns some. He has 950 carries and averaged 5.9 ypc and scored 60 touchdowns he also caught 79 passes showing versatility. Freeman is big and quick on the inside with enough speed to get away when he gets through the line. The Broncos cut leading rusher CJ Anderson during the offseason leaving Devontae Booker and De’Angelo Henderson as the only backs on the roster. John Elway has said he thinks Freeman is a lead back, something he has not said about Booker and Henderson. I expect Royce Freeman to come out of training camp as the starter and get 65%-70% of the touches out of the backfield. Freeman should land solidly in the low-end RB 2 range.
Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton are going to eventually be the replacements for Demaryius Thomas (30) and Emmanuel SandersE (31). Both veterans have outs in their contracts before 2019. Sutton is 6’3” with good speed, the ability to high point the ball and make the contested catch. Like Thomas coming out of college, he has some work to do on his route running. Hamilton is a bit bigger than Sanders but profiles as a slot receiver with excellent route running and the ability to work in traffic. Hamilton was a 4-year starter at Penn State. Both Sutton and Hamilton will have some moments this year and if Thomas or Sanders should get injured will step into a productive role. I would take Sutton as a bye week play in a deeper league and Hamilton as a roster stash.
Drop me a comment, tell me who you think landed in a good or bad spot.