Buffalo Bills – Chan Gailey has signed on as head coach and play caller with a history of making the most of team strengths. With the Bills – it is hard to assess just what those strengths are. Terrell Owens will not be back and leaves Lee Evans to fend for himself all over again. The passing game is in shambles after ranking no better than 30th in passes, completions or yards last year. Trent Edwards took his shot and missed and Ryan Fitzpatrick is nothing more than an adequate backup which should put the Bills into pursuit of a new quarterback. Marshawn Lynch may get yet another chance to prove he is better than Fred Jackson but this team will want to rush more often and better in 2010. That could potentially bring another back into the mix but improving the offensive line would produce better fantasy results with Jackson/Lynch. The Bills have a 1.09 to spend but with so many needs it could go anywhere.
Miami Dolphins – Chad Henne should remain the starting quarterback thanks to three games over 300 passing yards when he was asked to do more than be a game manager and there are no pressing receiver needs likely to be addressed in the draft. The wild card here is if Ronnie Brown can return from Lisfranc surgery on his foot and if 33-year old Ricky Williams can possibly hold up one more year. It would be only prudent to at least take a running back for depth since this is a run-first team with major question marks at their most important position. Relying on Brown returning from yet another injury and the aged Williams is wildly optimistic but the draft won’t have any fantasy impact short of taking an early running back.
New England Patriots – Wes Welker may start the season on the PUP list since his MCL had to heal before he could get ACL surgery. That means for at least the first six weeks of the season the Pats will rely on Julian Edelman to fill in. But the Patriots are unlikely to spend a high pick on a wide out and Edelman was only the 7.23 pick in 2009. The Patriots are also happy to use the oldest set of running backs in the league with Fred Taylor (34), Kevin Faulk (34) and Sammy Morris (33) pushing the youngster Laurence Maroney to the side when they are healthy. Other than the chance of drafting a temporary slot receiver, the Patriots won’t be taking an immediate impact fantasy player this year.
New York Jets – There’s no new fantasy value expected from this draft since 2010 will be more about improving on the rookie class of last year. Mark Sanchez was little more than a game manager but improved as the season progressed and should be more comfortable and productive. Braylon Edwards is a restricted free agent but will remain so he can work on actually catching the ball. Jerricho Cotchery and Dustin Keller add to the mix to give Sanchez all the targets he needs. Shonn Greene was drafted last year to take over from 31-year old Thomas Jones and became an unstoppable force by January. Jones enters his final contract year but the Jets will likely ignore the position in the draft since they get Leon Washington back from his broken leg.
Baltimore Ravens - Baltimore has its full complement of picks and many of the pieces already in place: franchise quarterback, dynamic running back, anchor tackles. But if Derrick Mason follows through on his retirement plans—and sticks to them this time—they’ll need to use an early pick or two to add a play-making pass-catcher to a receiving corps that ranked in the bottom half of the league across the board even with Mason doing most of the work. Baltimore’s later round picks could target a complementary back for Ray Rice (assuming Willis McGahee’s price tag lands him on the street) and a developmental tight end to back up and eventually replace oft-injured veteran Todd Heap. Any wideout drafted will be fantasy relevant.
Cincinnati Bengals - The days of the “pass-first” Bengals are gone, replaced by a run-centric offense built on the rejuvenated Cedric Benson. But that doesn’t mean the passing game will be neglected. The tragic death of Chris Henry left a hole in the heart of the Bengals; his absence from the lineup due to a broken arm prior to his death depleted the team of its lone field-stretching deep threat. Expect that need to be addressed early in the Bengals’ draft but the player would have limited fantasy value this year. Cincy also still has issues at tight end and may add a mid- to late-round pick—perhaps more of a blocker to complement last year’s second-rounder Chase Coffman, who spent the season on injured reserve.
Cleveland Browns - How many of the existing pieces will Mike Holmgren build with? The Browns may be comfortable with quarterback Brady Quinn—a good fit for Holmgren’s beloved West Coast offense—and Jerome Harrison’s strong finish could win him the running back job atop a committee that will also include James Davis and Chris Jennings; then again, Holmgren may use the Browns’ double-digit array of picks to start from scratch at those positions. There’s little question that Quinn, Holmgren, and the WCO will require an upgrade at tight end to fill the void left by the Kellen Winslow trade, but after selecting two wide receivers in last year’s draft the Browns may opt to use free agency or a trade to add a veteran wideout rather than getting even younger at the position. Figure any fantasy player drafted will be worth watching in training camp for a team rebuilding the depth chart.
Pittsburgh Steelers - Ben Roethlisberger will be 28 at the start of the 2010 season, and he’s the elder statesmen of the Steelers’ skill position corps; Hines Ward is the only key offensive player older than Big Ben. However, there are still a couple of areas where Pittsburgh may be looking for players who could register blips on the fantasy radar: a running back to replace Willie Parker and provide a complement to (and insurance for) Rashard Mendenhall, and a versatile tight end who can both block and catch to play opposite Heath Miller in two-tight end formations.
Houston Texans - The Houston passing game is in fine shape with Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson, though it wouldn’t be surprising if another receiver was added to push Kevin Walter and Jacoby Jones for a complementary role. If Owen Daniels can return healthy from his season-ending knee injury the tight end position is set as well, and even if he doesn’t James Casey could be groomed to fill that spot. If the Texans are looking to the draft for skill position help it will come in the backfield; at present they’re looking at some combination of Steve Slaton, Arian Foster, and possibly Ryan Moats, Chris Brown, and Chris Henry. It’s a committee that will make new offensive coordinator (and former Bronco) Rick Dennison feel right at home, but it’s also the kind of group that could benefit from a true lead dog. The draft will be notable only if the Texans grab an early running back and otherwise will have very minor fantasy impact.
Indianapolis Colts - There are no glaring fantasy needs in Peyton Manning’s offense... but that hasn’t stopped the Colts from adding help on that side of the ball before. That’s how Indy has filled holes with Anthony Gonzalez and Austin Collie at wideout and Donald Brown in the running game. The Colts may go looking for backups to Manning and Dallas Clark, but barring injury it’s unlikely any names called on draft day will have an immediate fantasy impact for their offense.
Jacksonville Jaguars - This could turn into a very interesting draft for the Jaguars. The emergence of Mike Sims-Walker, and later Mike Thomas, lessens the desperation for wide receiver help; now it’s just addressing depth instead of being a must-have. The running game is set and the offensive line was rebuilt in last year’s draft, which leaves the quarterback position as the lone fantasy need. David Garrard has five years left on his $60 million extension, but it wouldn’t be at all surprising to see Jacksonville bring local hero Tim Tebow into the fold; they’d need to retool the offensive scheme to fit Tebow’s skills, but it wouldn’t be a bad fit for Garrard either while Tebow adjusts to the NFL game. If nothing else, it would give the Jaguars a much-needed attendance boost.
Tennessee Titans - The key pieces appear to be in place for the Tennessee offense after adding Kenny Britt and Jared Cook last year, Chris Johnson the season before, and Vince Young in 2006. That leaves primarily back-up and complementary roles to be filled via the draft, replacing the likes of Kerry Collins and LenDale White—players who were hardly the cornerstones of fantasy contenders even when they were more than depth players. However, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Jeff Fisher add a player with return game skills who could also give the Titans an occasional downfield presence in the passing game. Expect marginal fantasy value at best.
Denver Broncos – Kyle Orton becomes a restricted free agent but should remain for 2010 despite finishing 2-8 in 2009. The pivotal player of the off-season is Brandon Marshall who also becomes a RFA and may be on the trading block after cleaning out his own locker. His absence would force the Broncos to mine the draft and free agency for a replacement while hoping that Eddie Royal can rekindle his rookie form. Tony Scheffler has fallen from grace and could be replaced as well. The Broncos are moving towards a power-rushing scheme that should feature Knowshon Moreno who ended his rookie campaign 53 yards short of 1000 but with a heavier load as the season progressed. The only fantasy relevant move the Broncos could make would be taking a very early wideout.
Kansas City Chiefs – Head coach Todd Haley has brought Charlie Weis on board to run the offense and that should spell good things for both the disappointing Matt Cassel and wildly successful Jamaal Charles. Dwayne Bowe gets his second season with Cassel while Chris Chambers heads to free agency. The Chiefs should use the draft to find a #2 wideout and potentially grab another tight end since Brad Cottam was unimpressive and a pass catching tight end would help complicate and diversify the passing game - a trademark of a Weis offense. The Chiefs hold the 1.05 pick but won’t use it on a fantasy player with more pressing needs on defense and with the offensive line.
Oakland Raiders – Armed with the 1.08 pick, the Raiders cold make it four years straight with a horribly expensive first round flop. With such dismal returns on JaMarcus Russell, Darren McFadden and Darius Heyward-Bey – all first at their position to be drafted – watching the Raiders make that first selection has become an event all its own. So far it has only produced young men driving Bentley’s who are completely absent from any highlight reels. With such poor results from their last three drafts, team needs have already been addressed through the draft…they’ve just never satisfied the Raiders or fantasy team owners.
San Diego Chargers – The Chargers are set with all the elements of their passing game filled by Philip Rivers, Antonio Gates, Vincent Jackson and Malcolm Floyd. But LaDainian Tomlinson is not expected to return to the Chargers and Darren Sproles remains as nothing more than a passing-down back and return specialist. That means the Chargers are certain to be looking at a running back in the draft potentially as a starter. Early picks are likely to be spent on defense but this high-scoring offense makes any rookie runner a player for great fantasy interest no matter when he is drafted.