Day Two now consists of the second and third rounds, which means these players are coming in with the expectation of contributing right away—both from their respective NFL teams and from fantasy players who draft them in August. Just because a player is the fourth running back off the board doesn’t mean he can’t have an immediate fantasy impact, especially if he finds himself with a prime opportunity.
Let’s take a look at the 19 “skill” position players who went off the board on Day Two, along with their fantasy potential.
The short answer is that quarterbacks don’t give you much if anything fantasy-wise in Year One—especially if they’re not first-rounders. The possible exception to that rule might be Jimmy Clausen, who fell all the way to 48 before the Panthers snapped him up. Clausen, universally acknowledged to be the most NFL-ready quarterback in this draft, will compete with Matt Moore to be Carolina’s starter; in other words, he has a legitimate shot to be under center in Week 1. The Panthers are a run-first team, but any quarterback throwing to Steve Smith warrants consideration; moreover, Clausen would seem to be set up as Carolina’s long-term solution at the position and should definitely be on dynasty league radars.
Colt McCoy also saw his draft stock take a significant hit; instead of sneaking into the first round, the winningest quarterback in college football history slipped all the way until 21 picks deep in the third. Funny thing is, he still ended up with the Browns—an almost perfect fit. McCoy has the tools to be a successful West Coast offense quarterback, and he’ll learn under one of the leading proponents of that system in Mike Holmgren. He also isn’t exactly blocked from playing time by Jake Delhomme and Seneca Wallace. Fantasy-wise, the Browns’ quarterback position doesn’t project to be a fantasy boon—at least right away. However, McCoy has a Jeff Garcia-like game and under Holmgren’s tutelage could be a sneaky dynasty league stash.
Carolina added another quarterback on Day Two, giving up next year’s second-round pick to the Patriots for the opportunity to grab Armanti Edwards out of Appalachian State. Rather than threaten Clausen for playing time, Edwards will give the Panthers a Joe Cribbs-type player who can be used out of the Wildcat formation. No word on whether or not he’ll be converted exclusively to a wide receiver/kick returner role, but that seems to be his most likely fit in the NFL.
For the most part the Vikings have thoroughly botched their 2010 draft, but one move they did get right was moving up to get Toby Gerhart. The Heisman runner-up could fill as many as three key roles for Minnesota: as the third-down back to replace Chester Taylor; as an insurance policy for Adrian Peterson; and potentially as a West Coast offense fullback which would free up a roster spot and placate Vikings fans by ridding the roster of 12th man Naufahu Tahi. Gerhart’s immediate fantasy value would come as a goal line option if Peterson’s fumble issues continue to plague him and the Vikings make a change at the stripe—or, of course, as a handcuff to AP. Dynasty owners of Peterson will want Gerhart for the same reason, as otherwise he’s lodged behind the most productive back in the league.
Strangely enough, the Vikings traded up with the Texans to get Gerhart—who would have been a solid complement to Steve Slaton and filled a need in Houston, Instead, the Texans move down and then back up to take Ben Tate. Tate is also a bigger back who would fit well in a committee with Slaton, but he also has the potential to be a feature ball carrier should Slaton’s neck/shoulder/hand injury continue to cause fumbling problems. With Kyle Shanahan out of Houston it remains to be seen just how much committee the Texans use, but Tate is at minimum worth keeping an eye on in redraft leagues and a late flier in dynasty formats.
The late-season emergence of Jerome Harrison would have seemed to answer some of the Browns’ running back questions, but there was still a need for a bigger between-the-tackles runner. That role will likely be filled by Montario Hardesty. Durability questions might pigeon-hole him to a complementary role, but if that workload comes at the goal line he’ll warrant fantasy attention. Of course, we learned (painfully) last year that the week-to-week workload in Cleveland was very fluid, so buyer beware.
The Buccaneers got bigger up front with their first two picks, then traded back up to give Josh Freeman a target by selecting Arrelious Benn with the seventh pick in Round Two. Benn was viewed by many as a potential first-rounder, with all the physical attributes of an NFL wideout and productivity limited by the offense and quarterbacking at Illinois. With little ahead of him on the Tampa Bay depth chart, he’ll be asked to contribute right away. Fantasy owners have seen a recent uptick in productivity from rookie wide receivers, and Benn has similar size to the guys who have been first-year successes (Randy Moss, Michael Clayton, Marques Colston, Anquan Boldin); his size, combined with his opportunity, make him a potential fantasy sleeper this year. Long-term, if you’re a fan of Josh Freeman you have to imagine the Bucs will develop their pitch-and-catch duo together; that makes Benn a dynasty league option as well.
Pete Carroll is having a great first draft with the Seahawks, and the late second-round selection of Golden Tate is no exception. After moving down 20 spots in the trade for quarterback Charlie Whitehurst, Seattle snared a wideout some expected to go in Round One. Tate gives the Seahawks a dynamic presence in both the passing and return games, essentially replacing what was lost when Nate Burleson left via free agency. It might be asking too much for a significant year-one contribution given Seattle’s fluid quarterback situation and the presence of targets like T.J. Houshmandzadeh and John Carlson, but Tate at least warrants a late look in larger redraft leagues and should definitely be on dynasty league radars.
After just four wideouts went off the board through the first two rounds, it was a veritable gusher in Round Three with seven wide receivers hearing their names called—all between picks 77 and 90, incluing four in a row to close out the run. The Titans added Damian Williams, who’ll add a different option to a receiving corps that includes Justin Gage and 2009 first-rounder Kenny Britt. The fact that Tennessee remains a run-first team hurts Williams’ immediate prospects, and unless there’s a regime change in Tennessee he’s a long-term fantasy reach as well.
Carolina gave Steve Smith (and Jimmy Clausen) some help in the third round with the selection of Brandon LaFell. A big receiver in the Muhsin Muhammed/Dwayne Bowe mold, LaFell (like Clausen) has a relatively obstacle-free path towards significant playing time. However, with Smith still the go-to guy, plenty of quarterback questions, and the Panthers’ run-heavy offense LaFell’s fantasy upside is severely limited in the short term and only slightly better in dynasty formats.
The Steelers have some openings at the receiver position after dealing Santonio Holmes, and Emmanuel Sanders could step into a productive role right away. If Mike Wallace moves outside to replace Holmes, Sanders could replace Wallace as the slot guy. Sanders is a bit smallish to play outside, and if Limas Sweed emerges then Sanders could find himself lodged behind Wallace. At best Sanders projects to be a third receiver in Pittsburgh this year, but the Steelers threw the ball enough in 2009 to make Wallace productive in that role. File Sanders’ name away and see where he’s lining up in training camp.
One pick before his college quarterback went off the board, Jordan Shipley joined the NFL as a member of the Cincinnati Bengals. Shipley is a Wes Welker type who could give Carson Palmer an intriguing slot target, but he’ll be competing not only with Chad Ochocinco and Antonio Bryant but also the Cincy ground game and first-round pick Jermaine Gresham. While talente, landing in Cincinnati makes Shipley a redraft afterthought and a long-term dynasty prospect at best.
Criticize the Broncos for taking Tim Tebow if you must, but there’s no question Josh McDaniels is molding this team to his specifications. In the third round the Broncos picked up what many consider the steal of the draft in Eric Decker, whose draft stock slipped due to a foot injury that prematurely ended his senior season at Minnesota and prevented him from working out for teams prior to the draft. Decker has the size and hands (three drops in a record-setting career with the Gophers) to be at minimum a solid NFL possession receiver, and if his foot fully heals he has deceptive speed as well. Perhaps most importantly, at Minnesota Decker played in an offense similar to the modified spread McDaniels will employ, so he knows the routes and demonstrated the ability to get open despite commanding all of the opponents’ defensive attention as the Gophers’ only legitimate offensive weapon. If healthy, he may be a better short-term contributor than Demaryius Thomas; long-term, Tebow to Thomas and Decker gives the Broncos what could be an extremely potent downfield attack.
If Kurt Warner were still at the helm in Arizona, Andre Roberts would be a tremendous sleeper candidate. Roberts plays bigger than his 5-10, 195 pound size and is a crisp route runner who stepped up in competition at the postseason all-star games and impressed. Sadly, he arrives in Arizona just in time for the team to transition to a run-first game, so his immediate fantasy upside is significantly limited. Long-term he could emerge as a complement to Larry Fitzgerald—but you’d be banking on Matt Leinart living up to his draft position and both Steve Breaston and Early Doucet failing to capture that role.
Taylor Price was a popular sleeper among draft analysts, and he’s off to a good start living up to that billing—not only by moving up into the third round but also by landing with the Patriots. He could very easily claim the slot role Wes Welker won’t be healthy enough to inhabit at the start of the season, and he has enough size and more than enough speed to kick outside and claim a feature role once Randy Moss and Torry Holt have hung up their Patriots’ jerseys. Price has some redraft value as a WR4 or WR5 flier, but his value in dynasty leagues might be significantly higher.
Speaking of the Patriots, Bill Belichick used his stash of second-round picks to move up in Round 2 and grab Rob Gronkowski, who some teams thought was first-round worthy and the best tight end on the board. Assuming his back issues are behind him, Gronkowski gives the Pats a versatile tight end who can play on all three downs, contribute as a blocker, and—most importantly for fantasy owners—produce as a receiver as well. The tight end depth chart is wide open in New England, so Gronkowski might be an attractive “I waited until the last round to grab my tight end” option in redraft leagues. Dynasty leaguers are less bullish on tight ends, but with a big roster Gronkowski might be the exception to that rule.
Another team expected to take a tight end early, the Ravens waited until early in Round Three to grab theirs; that’s where they tabbed Ed Dickson as the potential successor to Todd Heap. Dickson might need some time to transition to the NFL, but he’ll get to do so behind Heap. He might never be a great NFL blocker, but if the Ravens use him in the slot to create mismatches—much like the Colts use Dallas Clark or the Texans use Owen Daniels—he has significant fantasy potential. Barring a Heap injury (which is usually more inevitability than possibility), Dickson’s immediate fantasy value is limited; however, if he is in fact the heir to Heap’s numbers, dynasty leaguers would do well to stash him away on a larger roster and wait for his day to come.
The Chiefs have been looking for a tight end contributor since dealing Tony Gonzalez, and they may have found one in Tony Moeaki. The Iowa product was an every-down tight end in a pro-style offense, so his learning curve won’t be steep; however, he has struggled to stay heathy and might have difficulty staying healthy in a full-time role at the pro level. While there’s upside to Moeaki’s game, his durability questions make him at best a reach in both redraft and dynasty formats.
New Orleans was rumored to be seeking an eventual replacement for Jeremy Shockey in this rich tight end draft class, and towards the end of Day Two they may have found one in Jimmy Graham. The former Miami basketballer has plenty to learn, but with Shockey still on the Saints’ roster he’ll have time to do so. The Saints might also be willing to split Graham out to create mismatches with his athleticism even while Shockey is around; after all, they certainly aren’t afraid to throw the ball in New Orleans. There’s upside to Graham in redraft leagues, but not so much that you should throw anything more than a late-round flier his way. Long-term, if you have a larger roster in your dynasty league he’s the kind of guy you take with your last pick and hope that in a couple years takes over the starting gig and rewards your patience.