Dallas Cowboys – The Cowboys enter the NFL draft with the luxury of having no starter roles to fill outside of offensive line depth like most every other NFL team. The emergence of Felix Jones late in the season created a true three-headed backfield with Marion Barber as the pounder and Tashard Choice to run the wildcat formation. Miles Austin stepped up and outpaced Roy Williams and almost every other NFL wideout. Stephen McGee, the 4.01 pick from last year, could replace Jon Kitna as the backup for Tony Romo but no significant roster changes are expected this year. The Cowboys draft will likely mirror 2009 when they traded back and stocked up on depth players which creates another draft devoid of fantasy interest.
New York Giants – The move towards youth in the wide receiver corps was a success last year when Steve Smith, Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham exceeded expectations and raised the bar for 2010. Smith even set a team record with 107 receptions. The problem is the rushing game with Brandon Jacobs, Ahmad Bradshaw and even fullback Madison Hedgecock were scheduled for various offseason surgeries. Bradshaw is a fragile change of pace back in his final contract year while the 28-year old Jacobs fell to just 3.7 yards per carry last season. A healthy backfield will make a difference and the offensive line can be rebuilt. But the Giants should be in the market for a running back if only for depth after struggling to find a healthy tailback in 2009. Short of drafting a running back – and that is not really expected – there won’t be much fantasy relevance from this year’s draft.
Philadelphia Eagles – There’s no need to upgrade the receivers here since DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin and Brent Celek combined for top ten numbers in virtually all receiver categories. But Donovan McNabb is the subject of trade rumors despite head coach Andy Reid’s insistence that McNabb stays in Philly and Kevin Kolb remains on the bench. The Eagles are certain to upgrade at running back with 30-year old Brian Westbrook’s balky knee a continual problem that could force him to retire early. The Eagles ranked dead last in the league with only 311 rushing attempts last year and the rookie LeSean McCoy was unable to instill much confidence. McCoy saw reduced carries later in the season but still accounted for 40 catches. He’ll remain half of a tandem that could be filled out via the draft or free agency. Consider any running back drafted to have fantasy interest this year.
Washington Redskins – With new head coach Mike Shanahan taking over, there are no positions safe from scrutiny. Jason Campbell is not a long-term solution and could be traded or kept for one more year while other areas get attention. Clinton Portis reunites with his old coach but that means nothing since Shanahan already cut ties with him once and is rumored to release him again if Portis avoids OTA’s like he always has. The Redskins upgraded the wideouts with Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly in 2008 but the duo has been slow to develop in this below average passing attack. The Skins could be ripe for both running backs and quarterbacks in the draft – remember Shanahan’s surprise pick of Jay Cutler in 2006. It’s mostly a question of what Shanahan wants to fix first and he has a 1.04 to spend.
Chicago Bears - Da Bears will spend Day One of the draft on the sidelines, having dealt away their top two 2010 picks, so any help for Jay Cutler will have to be added in the later rounds or via free agency. The emergence of Devin Aromashodu and Johnny Knox over the course of last season has lessened the need for wide receiver help, and Khalil Bell looked capable of spelling Matt Forte as well. Thus, the primary impact of this year’s draft on the Bears’ fantasy prospects will be indirect as Chicago looks to upgrade its offensive line. Improving the blocking would help prop up the waning fantasy value of Matt Forte.
Detroit Lions - The Lions snared their franchise quarterback last year and have primary targets in Calvin Johnson and Brandon Pettigrew already in place. Kevin Smith’s knee injury could prompt Detroit to spend an early pick on a running back, as even with Smith in the lineup through Week 14 the ground game ranked 26th or lower in every significant statistical category. The Lions also still need a wide receiver to provide a threat across the field from Johnson, as evidenced by the zero touchdowns the passing game produced in the two games Megatron missed with a knee injury. Just how much attention Detroit can devote to those fantasy positions, however, has to be balanced with their needs across the offensive line and on defense; eight picks fills only so many holes.
Green Bay Packers - The Packers certainly don’t have problems scoring points, and they’ve surrounded Aaron Rodgers with a strong cache of pass-catchers. If Green Bay is confident they can eventually replace 35-year-old Donald Driver in-house, it would free up a draft pick to provide Ryan Grant with a complimentary back—or competition for carries. The most important use of the Packers’ complement of picks, though, would be upgrading an offensive line that allowed Rodgers to be sacked 50 times in 2009. This draft is unlikely to have much fantasy merit other than helping the veteran starters produce better.
Minnesota Vikings - There are few holes in the potent Vikings offense, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t needs on the horizon. Chester Taylor enters free agency and may be looking for a larger role than as Adrian Peterson’s backup, so don’t be surprised if Minnesota targets a running back in the first half of the draft. The other eventual hole, of course, will come if and when Brett Favre retires... and means it; maybe Packer backers can clue Vikings fans in on the drill. With the 2010 class lacking real star power at quarterback and the Vikings with no glaring holes, they might find themselves with the luxury of making a first-round, down-the-road pick at quarterback like they did with Daunte Culpepper in 1999.
Atlanta Falcons - Franchise quarterback Matt Ryan is in place, and the Falcons have used free agency to add Michael Turner and Tony Gonzalez around him. With plenty of defensive needs—and without a second-round pick—Atlanta may not have the opportunity to give Roddy White and the receiving corps some help until the draft’s second day. The later rounds might also yield a running back, depending on whether or not restricted free agents Jerious Norwood and Jason Snelling return to back up Turner but the Falcons won’t be taking any immediate impact fantasy players in the draft.
Carolina Panthers - The Panthers have no first-round pick, so barring a trade that splits up their talented backfield tandem this probably won’t be the year they look to replace Jake Delhomme. They could, however, look to supply Delhomme (or Matt Moore) with more downfield weapons; Steve Smith can only do so much by himself. The Panthers could also use more consistency at tight end, though their track record of spending fifth-round picks on the position (Jeff King in 2006, Dante Rosario in 2007, Gary Barnidge in 2008) hardly suggests they view a tight end upgrade as a priority. Muhsin Muhammad turns 37 and will not be back. Dwayne Jarrett has yet to impress. Expect any early drafted wide receiver to have much potential fantasy relevance.
New Orleans Saints - The Saints already have too many offensive weapons; there’s no reason for them to add another one with an early pick. On the other hand, as evidenced by the success of seventh-round selection Marques Colston and college free agents Pierre Thomas and Lynell Hamilton, if a rookie makes the New Orleans roster at a skill position he inherently has fantasy value.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers - The franchise quarterback is in place; now the Bucs need to supply Josh Freeman with some help. Even if the club works out some sort of long-term arrangement with franchised wideout Antonio Bryant, they need to add pass catchers—and holding three of the first 42 picks in the draft, they could very well target one of the top receivers in the 2010 class. That’s the most likely fantasy area for the Bucs to add playmakers, as they appear willing to give the backfield tandem of Carnell Williams and Derrick Ward another shot.
Arizona Cardinals – For an offense that has long been pass-happy, the Cards could look much different in 2010. The 39-year old Kurt Warner may retire and there is little confidence that Matt Leinart can maintain an offense that ranked #2 in pass yards and #1 in every wide receiver category. The oft-injured Anquan Boldin says he’s willing to play out his final contract year but the Cardinals may trade him while they can still get value back since Early Doucet and Steve Breaston are ready for bigger roles. Chris Wells finally gives the Cardinals a chance for a more balanced offense. The draft is not likely to produce fantasy starters though they will at least consider a quarterback if Warner is gone.
San Francisco 49ers – After years of mediocrity, the 49ers face a promising 2010 with a passing game that finally materialized around mid-season. Alex Smith and Vernon Davis both finally played like the first round picks they once were. Michael Crabtree needed five weeks to gain his sanity but became the primary wideout from his first NFL snap and has very high expectations for 2010 when he finally experiences training camp. Frank Gore scored 13 times and rushed for 4.9 yards per carry as one of the rare fulltime backs but Glen Coffee had a forgettable rookie season. For the first time in many years, the 49ers enter an NFL draft without any immediate fantasy needs beyond wide receiver depth. The 49ers are in great shape with a 1.13 and a 1.17 to spend.
Seattle Seahawks –Pete Carroll assumes the head coach spot after Jim Mora Jr. only lasted for one season and Carroll will have final authority on personnel decisions. He’s already confirmed that he’s keeping Matt Hasselbeck but most likely only to mentor a rookie quarterback that will come with either Seattle’s 1.06 or 1.14 draft pick. This will be a rebuilding year with a head coach already very familiar with players in this year’s draft. Nate Burleson is an unrestricted free agent and Deion Branch will be released so the Seahawks may be down to nothing more than the horribly overpaid 33-year old T.J. Houshmandzadeh. The Seahawks will use both free agency and the draft to address the receiver corps.
St. Louis Rams – Thanks to a 1-15 record, the Rams get the coveted 1.01 pick in the draft and there’s at least an even money chance that goes to nab either quarterback Sam Bradford or Jimmy Clausen since Marc Bulger is unlikely to return. Steven Jackson is still just 27-years old and has a few more seasons left though the Rams have not produced a decent replacement for him when he is injured. Almost every starting receiver ended the season on injured reserve but wideouts Donnie Avery and Laurent Robinson have enough promise to let the team bulk up other areas. The Rams entire draft will hinge on what they do with the 1.01 pick but any skill position player taken in the draft should potentially have at least marginal fantasy value.