The NFL draft is more than the influx of young talent; it strategically changes team dynamics and directly impacts certain key fantasy football stars. While the draft produces plenty of "looking over the shoulder" scenarios for veterans, it also significantly improves the fantasy prospects of select fantasy studs after the past weekend. Here's a quick fantasy review of the NFL veterans that had the biggest reasons to smile.
WR Roddy White and RB Michael Turner (ATL) - Not only does Turner finally get his shot at being a starter, the Falcons added QB Matt Ryan to spark the offense and offer consistency to the passing game. Selecting OT Sam Baker with the 1.21 selection helps shore up an offensive line for a team that fell to 27th in rush yards per game last year and the Falcons are now poised to install the new offense that showcases Turner. White already had his breakout season with 1202 yards and six scores that came from the castoff QB carousel of 2007. His upside gets a major bump as he gains chemistry with the most highly touted rookie quarterback in the draft. No NFL wideout benefitted more from the draft than White did.
QB Jake Delhomme (CAR) - After an injury-marred 2007, Delhomme returns to find the rushing game vastly upgraded with 1.13 pick Jonathan Stewart. The Panthers only managed about 60 rushing yards per game from DeShaun Foster last year and Stewart could have that by halftime. An added benefit is OT Jeff Otah taken with the 1.19 pick to help upgrade an offensive line that gave up 33 sacks last year. A better rushing game and improved offensive line spells success for Delhomme and even benefits Steve Smith.
QB JaMarcus Russell (OAK) - Sure, the Raiders could have scooped up an early wideout but with a young and developing quarterback in Russell, getting the premier playmaker in running back Darren McFadden will help Russell much more than an unseasoned receiver. With Fargas and now McFadden, the Raiders rushing game must be respected first and foremost. Just as significant for Russell is having McFadden as a pass outlet that will not only provide a security blanket but will be deadly in open space as a receiver. McFadden is a bigger gift for Russell than any wideout would have been. Think Reggie Bush only bigger and stronger.
QB Jay Cutler and RB Travis Henry (DEN) - Adding OT Ryan Clady with the 1.12 pick helps shore up the one-time fearsome offensive line in Denver and OG Kory Lichensteiger in the fourth offers needed depth. Clady will help reduce the 32 sacks from last year and directly impact a rushing attack that has fallen from the top ten for the first time in over a decade. Cutler already has three new veteran wideouts and he sorely needed an improved line to have more time to throw.
QB Jason Campbell and RB Clinton Portis (WAS) - Perhaps no team improved their fantasy prospects more than the Redskins. Santana Moss has not offered more than the occasional long bomb and no other wideouts have stepped up. The draft served up Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly for two high potential receivers and TE Fred Davis as a blocker that can receive as well. Thomas alone was a serious upgrade and Kelly is just more gravy. Defenses have been loading up against Portis and soon enough will no longer have that luxury. OT Chad Rinehart came in the fourth round to add more offensive line depth.
QB Ben Roethlisberger (PIT) - A great draft in fantasy terms saw the Steelers tab the curiously fallen Rashard Mendenhall to ensure that the rushing game will be healthy with or without Willie Parker. No one expected Medenhall to last to the 1.23 pick or WR Limas Sweed to hang on until the 2.22 selection. The 6'4" Sweed brings the tall presence that has been missing since Plaxico Burress left and along with Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes gives Big Ben with the best set of wideouts of his NFL career. The Steelers already had 34 passing scores in 2007 and now has an even better red zone target. Adding OT Tony Hills in the fourth round addressed the line problems of the last two years.
QB Jon Kitna (DET) - After two years under Mike Martz when he was sacked an NFL high 114 times, no doubt Kitna wept tears of joy when the Lions used their 1.17 pick on OT Gosder Cherilus to address their revolving door on the right side. With an improved offensive line and a less QB-battering scheme being installed, Kitna also benefits from the selection of the durable Kevin Smith at running back to replace the ever-injured Kevin Jones. Better blocking and a more reliable rushing game also benefits both Roy Williams and Calvin Johnson.
Veterans may be challenged by the rooks, but in fantasy football - some rookies just made the veterans even better.