The incoming rookie cast always spawns optimism by fantasy team owners and there's been just enough success stories to keep the fires of hope burning. Regardless that Marques Colston is the only seventh round wideout to matter in perhaps a decade or more, his impressive rookie season no doubt will have owners digging deeper and crossing their fingers more this year. Before jumping on that bus, remember too that the Saints drafted wideout Mike "not Colston" Hass with their 6.02 draft pick before getting the 7.44 Colston 81 draft slots later.
While it is a lot of fun to project who goes where, the reality is that "you never know until you know" of which Colston is the poster boy. With the NFL draft three weeks away, teams have burned through almost all the free agents and transacted most of the off-season trades already. Team needs will be weighed against "the best player available" and predicting which direction teams will most likely go is an exercise in futility when draft day trades transpire. This is also the time that teams go into "cloak our intentions" mode (except for Washington almost every year lately) that resulted in the Broncos nabbing Jay Cutler and the Patriots snapping up Laurence Maroney last year.
There will be several rookies with fantasy value this year because there are always a few. But those stars are not always the first players taken in their position and not always "the ones you see coming". Witness Maurice Drew-Jones going to the Jaguars with the 2.28 pick in last year's draft. He not only excelled, he did so while Fred Taylor remained the healthy starter. He outscored every other rookie running back including Joseph Addai and Laurence Maroney. Reggie Bush showed up big often enough to reward owners but often too late to help many reach their playoffs.
For fantasy fans, the teams in greatest need for a running back include BUF, GB, TEN and possibly NYG. A good wide receiver class will be distributed primarily through those teams with the biggest holes to fill - HOU, KC, NO, SF and TEN. But whatever happens all depends on what the slip of paper says that makes its way to the podium on April 28th and 29th. Each year has fun twists and turns as we watch young men trade their dorm rooms for mansions and 2007 will be no exception.
Here's a current look at each NFL team with their biggest need and what sort of fantasy value is likely to be created when they make their picks. Having players fall in the draft (according to their own war room rankings) will change their draft and as always, quality linemen on both sides of the line are always a default pick.
Day One Picks: 1.05, 2.06
Biggest Needs: Offensive line, Defensive line, Cornerback
The Cards are happy enough to stick with Leinart, James, Boldin and Fitzgerald so there won't be much here with a fantasy impact. The loss of LT Leonard Davis leaves a hole in a line that has been one of the league's worst in recent years though it played much better towards the end of last season. With the 5th pick in the NFL draft, OT Joe Thomas or Levi Brown would be a great need pick but the Cards could elect to snag a top DE like Gaines Adam. The new coaching staff is headed up by Ken Whisenhunt who was the OC from Pittsburgh, so that should have some impact on wanting a better offensive line. Since even the best OT in the draft would have a learning curve, the NFL draft is not going to change the fantasy outlook much here and certainly not as much as installing a new offense will.
Day One Picks: 1.08, 2.07, 2.12
Biggest Needs: Offensive line, Defensive line
Here's a similar team to the Cardinals in that they have a new offense coming in with HC Bobby Petrino and there's not a lot of pressing needs for fantasy positions - at least probably not. With Matt Schaub gone to the Texans, Atlanta will likely grab a deeper quarterback but Michael Vick has been re-anointed as "the man". Warrick Dunn is getting old and will likely give way to Jerious Norwood more this year, but there are no outward signs that they intend on grabbing another tailback. The addition of Joe Horn means that wideouts are no a big need if in fact any of them ever have any fantasy value. First pick should be a high quality defensive player - either the best available defensive tackle or even safety LaRon Landry.
Day One Picks: 1.29, 2.29
Biggest Needs: Offensive line, defensive depth
The addition of WIllis McGahee remove any need for a tailback though the loss of Ovie Mughelli to the Falcons has the Ravens needing fullback help. The Ravens will likely grab a wide receiver as well but nothing early enough to merit fantasy consideration for this year. With two very deep picks to open the draft, unlikely any big fantasy splash will be made here. The first pick likely goes to offensive lineman to help out the blocking for their new running back of McGahee.
Day One Picks: 1.12, 2.11
Biggest Needs: Running Back, Linebacker
This is one team certain to take a running back that should have some fantasy significance. Willis McGahee left for Baltimore and the Bills have not replaced him. Anthony Thomas? Shaud Williams? Oh yes - the Bills are on the hunt for a running back. Adrian Peterson could possibly reach the 12th pick and Marshawn Lynch is a possibility. Even if the Bills wait to use their second round pick on a tailback, that player will garner attention in fantasy drafts. Barring a trade, the Bills look locked into finding a starting rookie running back and that should mean their 1.12 pick. The Bills are the first team to draft with a big need for running back, but that won't preclude Adrian Peterson getting tabbed prior to their selection and leaving them with Marshawn Lynch.
Day One Picks: 1.14, 2.13
Biggest Needs: Defensive Back, linebacker
The addition of David Carr means the Panthers won't likely take a quarterback with expectations. DeShaun Foster and DeAngelo Williams return in similar capacities and the wideout crew is not a problem. The Panthers may take a stab at an earlier tight end but the days of Wesley Walls are long gone. The draft will mainly be used to bulk up a defense that disappointed last year after having high expectations. By the 14th overall pick, the best defensive players will be gone and could leave the Panthers looking at their highest ranked linebacker or even safety.
Day One Picks: 1.31, 2.05
Biggest Needs: Linebacker, Defensive Back
With Thomas Jones gone to the Jets, the Bears finally will rely on Cedric Benson only two years later than initially thought. While the coaching staff apparently believes in Adrian Peterson (the lesser), few others do. Expect the Bears to at least add some depth here via the draft but not with any fantasy value this year. The Lance Briggs drama could have the Bears hunting for a linebacker more than any other position and drafting so late in the first round means a play maker will be hard to find. No likely fantasy stars from this draft. Safety Mike Brown is still trying to comeback from foot surgery last year and could prompt an early pick on some insurance. Bears will likely grab a wide receiver eventually as well since Muhammad turns 34 and will need to be replaced eventually.
Day One Picks: 1.18, 2.17
Biggest Needs: Defensive back, linebacker
The offense is very set outside of possibly replacing TE Tony Stewart but even then there would be almost offensive fantasy value. The Bengals need to concentrate on getting their defense even remotely as good as their offense.The first two picks will likely spilt on a defensive tackle and a linebacker..
Day One Picks: 1.03, 2.04
Biggest Needs: Quarterback, offensive line
The Browns have all but given up on Charlie Frye and are potentially going to add Trent Green depending on current discussion but if that doesn't transpire - and maybe even if it does - the Browns are shopping for a quarterback with a very early pick to burn on one. Since JaMarcus Russell seema a near lock to go at #1 or #2, the Browns may opt for QB Brady Quinn with the valuable 1.03 or could go for OT Joe Thomas to address a perpetual team need. Taking in Jamal Lewis resolves their running back issues (or so they hope) and the wideouts are not a major issue since most of the passing woes are credited to Frye by the coaches. If they take a QB - Russell or Quinn - then it is likely that he will get playing time this year and will not get you many fantasy points at least initially.
Day One Picks: 1.22, 2.21
Biggest Needs: Wide Receiver, Defensive Back
Terry Glenn (33) and Terrell Owens (34) are hardly the future for the Cowboys and new HC Wade Phillips will most likely use his first pick either on a wide out for the future - and there are several good candidates likely to be there at either of the first two picks - or try once again to find more defensive back help against the passing game since Roy Williams is best when he mainly plays the run. The Saints shredded the Cowboys secondary last year and every successive team just used the same game plan to sink the Cowboys. With Patrick Crayton re-signed, even a first round wide out won't likely have much impact this year though. With the new coaching regime, Cowboys could look to once again address their perpetually problematic right corner.
Day One Picks: 1.21, 2.24
Biggest Needs: Defensive Line, Defensive Back
Unlikely that the Broncos are looking to upgrade the offense early in the draft. Jay Cutler returns for what should be a promising year and Travis Henry signed to ensure that the Bronco backfield can still have questions like last year since Mike Bell remains. Rod Smith turns 37 this year and needs a replacement but Brandon Marshall showed promise last season. The Broncos will likely draft a wideout mid-draft or so, but there's no likely fantasy value for this year coming out of the Bronco's draft. The safeties are getting old and the defensive line could use the help the most.
Day One Picks: 1.02, 2.02
Biggest Needs: Cornerback, Linebackers
The loss of Dre' Bly is a glaring need that will need to be addressed early (if not often) but owning that #2 overall pick means a play maker and hopeful franchise star. Most expect them to snag WR Calvin Johnson if the Raiders do not grab him. Johnson has all the accolades of any rookie wideout for the last several years and landing in the pass-happy, Martz-inspired offense would be a nice spot indeed for Johnson. The defense needs the most work here but the #2 pick in the draft has to go to a supposed superstar. The addition of Tatum Bell and T.J. Duckett gives the Lions more RB depth than they have enjoyed in many years and the potential prolonged nature of the injury to Kevin Jones has already been compensated. Even if the Lions wait on a wide out for a round or two, the player is worth some fantasy consideration though Roy Williams and Mike Furrey would remain strong starters short of Johnson coming on board. Still a chance the Lions could trade out or go for OT Joe Thomas. Martz offenses are notoriously hard on quarterbacks and there is no "Orlando Pace" currently on the roster.
Green Bay Packers
Day One Picks: 1.16, 2.15
Biggest Needs: Running Back, Defensive Back
The loss of Ahman Green has not been filled other than HC Mike McCarthy saying that he believes in Vernand Morency as the starter. That could be true (his belief, not necessarily the success) or it could be merely bluster. The Packers are almost certain to take a running back with an early pick and drafting mid-round means they either grab the best player to fall in the draft (which could possibly be Marshawn Lynch) or a safety. Given the state of the backfield, almost any tailback drafted by the Packers deserves fantasy attention and if it is a first or second rounder, then Morency's hold on the starting role is in bigger question. The Packers may opt for a tight end as well since David Martin left for Miami. Best case for the Packers is that Cleveland ends up with Adrian Peterson and leaves them Marshawn Lynch.
Day One Picks: 1.10
Biggest Needs: Wide Receiver, Defensive Line
The release of Eric Moulds once again leaves a glaring opening across from Andre Johnson which will be addressed in the draft in the opening rounds. But this is a fairly rich wide receiver draft and the 10th overall pick is too early for any of them besides Calvin Johnson who will never fall that far. That means the Texans will opt for beefing up the defensive line early and wait to get a later wideout. The problem here is that the Texans have no second round pick so the wideouts will already have been raided. Matt Schaub brings some optimism to the passing game this year but the draft is going to be less likely to produce a fantasy player of significance unless the Texans burn their 1.10 on him - which will be too early all things considered. Houston will almost certainly go for a defensive player and then get whatever they can later on.
Day One Picks: 1.32
Biggest Needs: Defensive Line, Linebacker
The Colts won't likely grab any rookies with fantasy value unless they get their expected running back earlier than later. The departure of Dominic Rhodes happened in part because of the confidence the Colts have in Joseph Addai but the Colts still need depth. That will likely happen sometime the second day. Drafting so late and without a second round pick leaves this draft for mostly depth additions and the defense needs the most help.
Day One Picks: 1.17, 2.16
Biggest Needs: Defensive Line, Defensive Back
The team is set with Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew and while the wideouts are not stellar, they still have some growth left in them and likely won't be a priority. The rushing game was working so well by the end of 2006, that the offense is in no need of refurbishing. Losing safety Deon Grant leaves a hole that needs to be filled and the defensive line needs an upgrade. Likely no fantasy impact from the draft here - MJD was the big bang last year. Drafting mid-round has the Jags waiting to see who falls in the first round - a better safety or a better defensive end.
Kansas City Chiefs
Day One Picks: 1.23, 2.22
Biggest Needs: Wide Receiver, Offensive Line
Eddie Kennison turns 34 and the wideouts almost entirely disappeared last season. In a deep draft for wideouts, the Chiefs should be taking one early if not initially and that player has a shot at time on the field. But the newer offense under HC Herman Edwards looks plenty happy to run the ball anyway, so expectations for this year should be limited regardless. The aging offensive line needs an upgrade to continue to open holes for Larry Johnson with both OG Shields and C Wiegmann still contemplating retirement. The 1.23 pick is a nice spot for a quality wideout but not one that will contend for rookie of the year by any means.
Day One Picks: 1.09, 2.08
Biggest Needs: Quarterback, Wide Receiver
The Fins have chased Trent Green but nothing has happened so barring any unforeseen moves, they enter the draft with only Daunte Culpepper as the starter and he has failed to promote much confidence in his stock. The first pick likely won't go for a quarterback since both JaMarcus Russell and Brady Quinn are likely gone at the 1.09 but that'll be a little early to take a wide out since there will be good quality left at the 2.08. Most likely the Fins take the best defensive player on the board at that point. The passing game left much to be desired last season but their first pick would likely be a small reach if they went wide receiver. There could be some fantasy value here from a rookie wideout, but as always there's much more risk than likely reward this year in the best case.
Day One Picks: 1.07, 2.09
Biggest Needs: Defensive Line, Wide Receiver
The 1.07 pick demands a play maker and while the need for a wide out is there, this pick most likely goes to the best available defensive player - like DE Gaines Adams or Jamaal Anderson - who would upgrade the pass rush. The 2.09 selection could still get a quality wideout and the Vikes will likely end up with more than one from this draft since the team is devoid of any true play makers in the passing game. Minimal fantasy value here from the draft if only because limited expectations of what QB Tavaris Jackson will do this year.
New England Patriots
Day One Picks: 1.24, 1.28
Biggest Needs: Defensive Back, Linebacker
The Pats have a very rich draft ahead of them with a total of 12 picks and two first rounders. With additions of Donte Stallworth, Wes Welker and Kelly Washington, there's no need for a wideout this year and while Corey Dillon is gone, Laurence Maroney takes the starting tailback spot. The Patriots have a long history of making good draft picks and though this year has a dozen selections to spend, it is unlikely that any real fantasy value comes out for this year in the Patriot's draft. There's a chance that they opt for a running back early just for depth, but unless it is someone like FB Brian Leonard, the rookie will just provide depth. Those first two picks will likely be bolstering the defense.
New Orleans Saints
Day One Picks: 1.27, 2.26
Biggest Needs: Wide Receiver, Cornerback
The departure of Joe Horn leaves a hole in the wideout crew despite the fine rookie campaign of Marques Colston. Devery Henderson still hasn't proven to be much more than a slot receiver and Terrance Copper is just depth with a bit of talent. The Saints will move to get a talented wideout within the first two picks if not the 1.28 (likely). With Drew Brees already showing what he can do with a rookie wideout last year, any early drafted receiver for the Saints merits at least some fantasy attention. The later picks will be mining for defensive help, particularly cornerbacks and safeties but there is an opening for a rookie wideout to get some playing time this season with a talented quarterback in an offense that likes to throw.
New York Giants
Day One Picks: 1.20, 2.19
Biggest Needs: Defensive Line, Linebacker
While it seems like there should be an opening for a running back in New York with the departure of Tiki Barber, Brandon Jacobs will get the starting nod and the Giants somehow believe that Reuben Droughns is a good addition. While they could pick up a running back at some point, glaring needs on the defense will rule this draft and there should be little or no offensive fantasy value for the team this year. Starting at the 1.20 is a bit late to expect a play maker for this year regardless of the position.
New York Jets
Day One Picks: 1.25, 2.31
Biggest Needs: Defensive Line, Cornerback
The Jets picked up Thomas Jones to fill in their biggest hole and the rest of the offense is already set outside of offensive line additions. Late round picks on day one will most likely go to the defense as HC Eric Mangini continues to refine the 3-4 he installed last year. There is a chance that Mangini and company opt for an early tight end but most likely this will just be a defensive draft.
Day One Picks: 1.01, 2.01
Biggest Needs: Quarterback, Offensive Line
A team that pretty much needs everything could go in any number of directions in the draft but holding the golden ticket of the 1.01 pick this year means the Raiders are looking for a franchise player/savior. Smart money is on QB JaMarcus Russell but the hype about WR Calvin Johnson persists enough to make that Russell pick a shade less than a 100% guarantee. Regardless if it is Russell or Johnson or even Brady Quinn, whoever will be expected to step in likely from day one as the "BEST PLAYER IN COLLEGE" (add echo). After that, the offensive line needs help... lots of help. "This is Armstrong Custer and stop hanging up on me" kind of help.
Day One Picks: 1.26, 2.25
Biggest Needs: Defensive Backs, Linebackers
Drafting late round, the Eagles are expected to chase mostly defensive players in April and even they will likely start out as just positional depth. The addition of Kevin Curtis negates the critical need of a wideout and the duo of Brian Westbrook and Correll Buckhalter will be relied on to reprise the ground game this year. No real fantasy value expected here since most players will merely be depth for this year.
Day One Picks: 1.15, 2.14
Biggest Needs: Defensive Line, Offensive Line
The only fantasy value likely here is if the Steelers elect to take a back-up running back for Willie Parker. With only Najeh Davenport as a viable back-up, the Steelers will eventually address the position but are expected to go for pass rushers and blockers with their most valuable picks. Marginal fantasy value here if they grab a promising running back in the first three rounds since Parker is not the biggest back in the league (209 pounds). The new offense remains to be seen, but there's no reason to expect anything less than Parker taking the full-time role if healthy. Likely all Steeler rookies will be just to add depth to their positions this year.
San Diego Chargers
Day One Picks: 1.30, 2.30
Biggest Needs: Wide Receiver, Linebackers
The Chargers never used either Keenan McCardell or Eric Parker last year but then again owning the best tight end in the league and the best running back in history tends to downplay the position anyway. Vincent Jackson looks ready to take the next step but there's a definite need to add some talent to the wide outs. For the same reason that McCardell and Parker mattered so little last year, a rookie wide receiver has marginal fantasy value this year even if they take him with the first pick. This is Gates and Tomlinson's team and all other players pale in comparison.
San Francisco 49ers
Day One Picks: 1.11, 2.10
Biggest Needs: Wide Receiver, Linebacker
Frank Gore had a phenomenal 2006 season but the passing game looks just as lethargic as last year (and the year before, and the year before that, and...). The 1.11 pick could snare a top wideout but this continues to be a team trying to improve the defense and one that evidently believes that Ashley Lelie is the answer to some question. If the 1.11 pick goes to the defense - which is likely - then the 2.10 almost certainly goes to a wideout and there should still be talent on the board then. A rookie wideout in San Francisco could have fantasy value if only because Arnaz Battles and Ashley Lelie as starters scream for someone to challenge them. Then again, QB Alex Smith has done little to suggest that any wideout there will have any role as a fantasy starter and TE Vernon Davis will see an increased role so long as he remains healthy.
Day One Picks: 2.23
Biggest Needs: A first round pick, Offensive Line, Defensive Line
With 54 picks taken before the Seahawks finally get a chance, this is not a draft likely to offer much to the Seahawks unless they get lucky with a deeper selection. Ends up that losing OG Steve Hutchinson last year really did matter so no doubt that Seattle will be looking for line help just as soon as their first pick rolls around... still waiting... still waiting... Team could make a move for a tight end but unlikely that has any fantasy value this year. The one ace in the hole for the team is Darrell Jackson who could end up as a draft day trade that turns into a draft pick but even that won't likely command a first round pick.
St. Louis Rams
Day One Picks: 1.13, 2.20
Biggest Needs: Defensive Line, Offensive Line
The defensive line needs upgrading more than any other position so expect the Rams to use their 1.13 to find a player that can help stop the other team. The loss of Kevin Curtis and Shaun McDonald was replaced by Drew Bennett and Randy McMichael was added to improve the tight end slot. This may not be a "splashy" draft for the Rams but upgrades to both lines will reap needed benefits.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Day One Picks: 1.04, 2.03, 2.32
Biggest Needs: Offensive Line, Defensive Line
The Buccaneers have a chance at a difference maker sitting with the 1.04 pick in the draft. Early projections had them taking Calvin Johnson but his hype could have him gone by then. That would still get them the best offensive lineman in the draft in Joe Thomas - a very big need. The defensive line should command early picks as well so the fantasy value here outside of potentially Calvin Johnson is likely minimal. Jeff Garcia is bound to be an upgrade for the quarterback slot from the last couple of seasons but then again it could just move him in line to get injured like most other Buccaneer quarterbacks. Johnson would have a nice shot at plenty of playing time regardless where he ends up and in Tampa Bay, he'd likely move in on Day One to take playing time. Not an ideal situation but one that would definitely showcase what Johnson could do.
Day One Picks: 1.19, 2.18
Biggest Needs: Wide Receiver, Running Back, Defensive Line
The Titans paid dearly for Vince Young last year but the cast around him is getting worse, not better. The loss of Drew Bennett would be no major setback on most teams but compared to what he left behind his absence will be felt in Tennessee. David Givens has a chance to restart his career again this year but his health prevented him from contributing last year. The Titans are almost certain to add an early wideout to the crew because currently it appears weaker than any other team outside of perhaps the 49ers. Allowing Travis Henry to leave and letting Chris Brown languish in the land of unwanted free agents means that LenDale White currently holds down the starting tailback role purely by default because he did little last year to earn it. This draft only provides mid-round picks for the Titans but they'll almost certainly be hunting for more offensive weapons for Young in the early picks.
Day One Picks: 1.06
Biggest Needs: All those draft picks back, Defensive Line, Offensive Line
After that 1.06 pick, the Redskins get to stare at the walls until the 5.06 pick rolls around the next day. The Skins could drive home, mow the yard, catch a late night movie, eat breakfast in Virginia and still be back in time for their next pick. Their first round pick not only defines their draft, it is pretty much their entire draft. That has to go to the defensive line and should net a top talent like Gaines Adams or Jamaal Anderson.