This will be the second of three articles reviewing the best and worst landing spots of this year’s draft prospects. Here’s the link to the day one breakdown. In this installment, I’ll cover the second day of the draft, as I give my thoughts on the good the bad and the ugly. Which players’ landing spots were the best for fantasy owners and which ones will be hurt by their new homes? So let’s jump right in and start dissecting the opening round.
DT Nathan Shepard, New York Jets: With the loss of Sheldon Richardson in 2017 and Muhammad Wilkerson this year, the Jets became thin along the d-line. With the No. 72 pick in the 2018 draft the Jets selected Nathan Shepard from Fort Hays St. At 6’4” 315 lbs, he dominated the D-IAA level, but some were concerned if he could do same against better competition. He put a lot of those concerns to bed, with his strong showing at this year’s Senior Bowl week. Shepard is still somewhat raw; he has the potential to be an impact player. He fills a big need for the Jets at a premium position. In the world of fantasy, his impact will be better long term than early. A great taxi squad stash, with DT2 potential.
CB Joshua Jackson, Green Bay Packers: The Packers have made it clear what their weakness was and have aggressively addressed it. The took CB Jaire Alexander in the 1st round and Joshua Jackson in the 2nd. I had Jackson rated as the #2 corner in the draft just behind Minkah Fitzpatrick. A former wide receiver turned All-American cornerback, Jackson led the nation in interceptions (8) and pass breakups (26), last season. He has blazing speed (4.54), elite burst and quickness. He will give the Pack, that ballhawk corner they have been needing. Fantasy owners should be all in with this kid. He is going to be a tremendous impact player, especially if your league requires you to start a corner(s). I can easily see him being a CB1 or DB3 fantasy option.
LB Darius Leonard, Indianapolis Colts: The Colts are desperate for playmakers and finally get a very good one in Leonard. He was the MEAC Defensive Player of the Year, two times and set school records with 394 career tackles. Leonard was another player that shined during Senior Bowl week and continued that at his Pro Day. Wowed scouts with his defensive back type skills and pass rush potential. He has a slender frame, so he will need to add some much-needed weight, but that shouldn’t be a big issue. In the fantasy world, he could have a really good impact as a rookie, as he will be leaned on heavily by the talent-deprived Colts. I see him being a low-end LB2 option, that will have some clunkers along the way. His value should improve as he settles into the pro game.
LB Oren Burks, Green Bay Packers: The Packers have been nailing this draft and Burks is no exception. He’s as talented at OLB, as his former Vanderbilt teammate Zach Cunningham is at ILB. That’s pretty high praise! Burks is another Senior Bowl shining star that landed in a great situation. Green Bay has their star ILB, in Blake Martinez and Burks gives them some much-needed help on the outside. Burks excels at sideline to sideline coverage and takes great angles to the ball. He is a jack of all trades type player and in fantasy that can be a very good thing. My early projection for him is an LB3 rating. Great taxi squad option.
DT Harrison Phillips, Buffalo Bills: What a steal the Bills got, by being able to draft Phillips in the 3rd round (96th pick overall). I had him ranked as the 4th best Defensive Tackle prospect in the draft, and I would’ve thought he’d have been long gone by this point in the draft. He fills a big need for the Bills after they traded away Marcel Dareus and with veteran Kyle Williams, likely to retire very soon. Phillips is a beast at DT and put up crazy tackle numbers (103) last season at Stanford. Even with Williams and newly acquired Star Lotulelei penciled in as starters, I fully expect Phillips to challenge for a starting job. At the very least, he will be involved in a heavy rotation. I highly recommend fantasy owners get every share of him they can. I give him an early low-end DT1/ high-end DT2 rating. If he can consistently replicate anywhere close to those tackle numbers in the pros, he will be a top 5 DT.
S Ronnie Harrison, Jacksonville Jaguars: A classic case of the rich getting richer. The Jags have a defense that is stacked with talent from front to back and the depth behind them. So how does a such a talented group get better? You address your weakest link, and for the Jags, that was the safety position. I had Harrison with a late 1st round grade and to be honest, was hoping my Titans would draft him. Every great defense needs that tone setter in the secondary and Harrison will provide just that. He also has natural ball skills (7 interceptions & 31 pass breakups in two years as a starter). He has huge upside in fantasy IDP world and could be a DROY candidate. Remember you heard that here first.
DT Justin Jones, Los Angeles Chargers: The Chargers got the position right, but not the right player. There were some much better players at the position still available on the draft board, Such as a Harrison Phillips, Maurice Hurst, Tim Settle, etc. He played on a star-studded NC State d-line, but his numbers were average at best. Not a lot of high upside, as he’s more of a rotational type player. In fantasy, I don’t expect him to provide enough value to warrant owning him. At best, he’s a low-end DT3 option in leagues that require a DT(s) to be started.
DT BJ Hill, New York Giants: This is not a horrible pick, but it’s a bit of a head-scratcher considering the talent at the position that was still available and that this wasn’t a pressing need. They already have Damon Harrison, Dalvin Tomlinson and Jay Bromley on the roster, so drafting Hill is only a depth move. At best, Hill will likely be just a two-down run stopper and provides little pass rush potential. He’s not going to offer enough value, for fantasy owners to roster him.
EDGE Arden Key, Oakland Raiders: A very talented pass rusher who led LSU in sacks with a school record 12 in 2016. That’s the type of potential that led the Raiders to trade up to get him. If you can get that on a consistent basis, it’s a good pick. Now for the bad, which is the red flags surrounding him. Between the numerous injuries that plagued him last season, the weight control problems, his temporary leave from the team and the off-field concerns are not worth what the Raiders gave to move up. He’ll either be a boom or bust, and I would let some other take that risk.
CB Duke Dawson, New England Patriots: A common theme I saw in this draft is teams addressing needs, but drafting a player much less talented than some that were still available. The Pats choosing Dawson over players such as Isaiah Oliver & Carlton Davis. He does have some desirable skills and could develop into a decent option later on. Regarding fantasy, I don’t know that he will be on the field for enough plays to be a viable option. I’m also concerned if he can make enough plays if/when he is on the field. He’s a low-end CB3 in my rating for him.