<
>

NFL draft: Round 1 fantasy reaction

play
Berry expects 'very good' season from Barkley (0:50)

Matthew Berry explains what you should expect from Saquon Barkley's rookie season with the Giants. (0:50)

ESPN Fantasy's Mike Clay breaks down the fantasy impact of each skill-position pick from the first round of the 2018 NFL draft.

Don't miss Clay's analysis on every skill-position player selected in Rounds 2 and 3.


No. 1: QB Baker Mayfield to Cleveland Browns

This year's first overall pick was one of the best-kept secrets in recent draft memory. The secret is now officially out. Cleveland went with Mayfield over the likes of Sam Darnold, Josh Allen and Josh Rosen, with the hope that the Oklahoma product is the team's long-term answer at quarterback.

Mayfield critics knock him for his size (6-foot-1, 215 pounds) and the "ease" of the Sooners' spread offense, but his elite passing efficiency is impossible to ignore. Last season, Mayfield completed 71 percent of his passes, averaged 11.5 yards per pass attempt (YPA), posted a 198.9 QB rating and a 92.6 total QBR. All were the highest marks among quarterbacks who attended the 2018 combine. Mayfield posted an incredible 43:6 TD:INT rate, and despite going down field plenty (10.7 average depth of target -- aDOT), he was off target on only 8.9 percent of his attempts.

Mayfield is already 23 years old, so while it's fair to expect him to make a quick transition, he'll enter training camp as a big underdog to Tyrod Taylor for the team's Week 1 job. It is possible Mayfield pulls a Russell Wilson or a Carson Wentz and steals the job away, but the better bet is that he spends upward of three-quarters of his rookie season holding the clipboard, especially with a much-improved Cleveland team likely to hang in the wild-card mix longer than usual.

Mayfield is a fine dynasty stash with big long-term upside, but he's unlikely to have much fantasy value during the 2018 regular season.

Rookie-season projection: 4 starts, 85-of-140, 981 yards, 6 TDs, 4 INTs; 12 carries, 57 yards


No. 2: RB Saquon Barkley to New York Giants

The Giants passed on an opportunity to find an heir apparent to quarterback Eli Manning and instead added a workhorse tailback in Barkley. It's rare to feel comfortable recommending a rookie as a top-15 overall pick in fantasy, but Barkley is the rare exception. The former Penn State star is massive (6 feet tall, 233 pounds) and an elite athlete. He's fast, quick, elusive and a terrific receiver -- the latter of which is of extreme importance both in the modern NFL and in fantasy.

There's risk with any rookie, but with only 31-year-old Jonathan Stewart in the Giants' mix, Barkley is a near lock to step right in as a 20-plus-touch player in this offense. His size will allow plenty of work near the goal line, and his receiving and blocking chops supply him with a high floor. Expect him to chip in on returns, as well, which only adds to his value. Barkley will be a fantasy star from Day 1.

Rookie-season projection: 259 carries, 1,136 yards, 7 TDs; 78 targets, 60 receptions, 533 yards, 3 TDs


No. 3: QB Sam Darnold to New York Jets

The Jets re-signed 38-year-old Josh McCown and added Teddy Bridgewater during the offseason, but they took a big step toward securing a long-term quarterback solution by selecting Darnold. The USC product has decent size (6-foot-3, 221 pounds), terrific accuracy and a good arm. He needs to cut down on turnovers (13 interceptions in 14 games last season and 20 during his past 20 games), but he sports one of the highest floors and ceilings in this class.

McCown played well enough last season to be the favorite for Week 1 starting duties, but Darnold is a good bet to make plenty of starts as a rookie on a team unlikely to be competitive. Although Darnold is not expected to make much fantasy noise in 2018, he will be an intriguing breakout player down the road.

Rookie-season projection: 6 starts, 129-of-214, 1,484 yards, 7 TDs, 6 INTs; 14 carries, 49 yards


No. 7: QB Josh Allen to Buffalo Bills

The Bills entered Thursday with the league's shakiest quarterback situation, but they aimed to fill that hole by trading up to select Allen with the seventh overall pick. Scouts love Allen's big frame (6-foot-5, 237 pounds) and elite arm strength, but it's hard to ignore his inefficiencies in nearly any statistical category you can find. He was off target on 16.3 percent of his throws at Wyoming last season, which is worst among all top quarterback prospects in recent years. (DeShone Kizer was the next closest at 14.5 percent.) Allen completed an ugly 56 percent of his passes and averaged 6.7 YPA in 2017.

Allen is a very polarizing prospect, and we'll likely get to see him under center quickly, considering that his competition for starting duties is AJ McCarron and Nathan Peterman. The Bills operate a run-first offense and seriously lack talent at wide receiver and on the offensive line. Allen might play a lot in 2018, but he's very unlikely to emerge as a fantasy asset anytime soon. Allen's shortcomings make him a long shot for NFL success, but he's a name to monitor in dynasty leagues.

Rookie-season projection: 6 starts, 116-of-197, 1,322 yards, 6 TDs, 7 INTs; 17 carries, 59 yards, 1 TD


No. 10: QB Josh Rosen to Arizona Cardinals

Carson Palmer retired, leaving the Cardinals with a void at quarterback this offseason. They signed both Sam Bradford and Mike Glennon to two-year deals and, on Thursday, traded up for Rosen.

Arizona is obviously hoping Rosen is its long-term solution at the position, but he might be the short-term answer, as well. Bradford is the favorite to start Week 1, but his durability issues are well-documented, and Arizona's shaky roster means the team is unlikely to contend for a playoff spot in a very tough NFC this season.

Rosen is an intriguing prospect at 6-foot-4 and 226 pounds with a solid arm and good accuracy. The UCLA product adds very little with his legs (notable for fantasy). And he was a very conservative thrower last season (8.1 aDOT). Like Darnold, Rosen struggled with turnovers in college, throwing 26 picks in 30 career starts. Expect Rosen to make plenty of starts in 2018, but he is not likely to do much damage in fantasy before 2019.

Rookie-season projection: 8 starts, 185-of-307, 2,174 yards, 11 TDs, 8 INTs; 13 carries, 40 yards


No. 24: WR D.J. Moore to Carolina Panthers

Carolina has invested a ton in pass-catchers over the past few years (Kelvin Benjamin, Devin Funchess, Christian McCaffrey, Curtis Samuel) but still entered draft weekend with a void at wide receiver. Enter Moore, the first wideout off the board.

The Maryland product is 6 feet and 210 pounds, and he exploded for 80 receptions, 1,033 yards and eight scores last season. He's a quick and tough receiver, who crushed it at the combine, which included a 4.42-second 40-yard dash.

Moore can play inside and out, and he can help out as a returner. He turned 21 earlier this month, and he is one of the youngest players in this class, so it's reasonable to expect a slow start. Funchess, Samuel, Torrey Smith and Jarius Wright also are in the mix in what is typically a low-volume passing offense.

Moore is a terrific prospect, but unless he dominates offseason activities and emerges as an every-down player, he'll be worth no more than a late-round flier in 2018 fantasy leagues.

Rookie-season projection: 66 targets, 37 receptions, 505 yards, 3 TDs


No. 25: TE Hayden Hurst to Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens have struck out at tight end in recent years, and they lost Benjamin Watson to New Orleans, but they made a move to fill the void by selecting Hurst in the first round.

At 25, Hurst is older than most rookies, having converted to football after a stint as a minor league baseball player. He is 6-foot-4 and 250 pounds and has good hands, strength and athletic ability.

With only Nick Boyle and Maxx Williams in the mix in Baltimore, Hurst has a very good chance to start as a rookie. Of course, this is not a very good pass offense, and rookie tight ends -- especially two-way players such as Hurst -- rarely make an impact in the box score. He's far off the TE1 radar in 2018.

Rookie-season projection: 45 targets, 30 receptions, 314 yards, 2 TDs


No. 26: WR Calvin Ridley to Atlanta Falcons

Atlanta entered draft weekend with significant depth concerns at wide receiver behind Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu. Consider the hole filled after Ridley was scooped up in the first round.

Ridley is undersized at 6 feet and 189 pounds, but he has good speed and separation skills. He was superproductive at Alabama, hauling in 224 passes during three seasons. Ridley already has turned 23 years old, so he'll be expected to make a quick impact.

His size doesn't figure to allow many touchdowns, which only fuels Jones' chances at bouncing back in the scoring department in 2018. Ridley will slide into third on the depth chart, but if he's the real deal, it shouldn't take long to overtake Sanu as Matt Ryan's No. 2 target. Ridley's fantasy ceiling might be capped early, but he'll be an intriguing flier in the middle to late rounds in a good Atlanta offense.

Rookie-season projection: 80 targets, 49 receptions, 608 yards, 4 TDs


No. 27: RB Rashaad Penny to Seattle Seahawks

File this one under "shocker." Seattle took a step backward last season and entered Thursday with significant roster holes, but the Seahawks decided to select a running back with their first-round pick. Penny is an extremely talented and intriguing prospect, but he was expected to go on Day 2 after the likes of Derrius Guice and Sony Michel.

The San Diego State prospect is well-built and a downhill, yet elusive, runner at 5-foot-11 and 220 pounds. He averaged 7.8 yards per catch while managing 10-plus yards on 20 percent of his attempts last season, and he ran a 4.46-second 40-yard dash at the combine.

Considering he was a first-round pick, Penny is the heavy favorite to open 2018 as Seattle's feature back, deferring only occasional touches to the likes of Chris Carson and C.J. Prosise. Seattle has changed to a pass-heavy attack in recent seasons, but the selection of Penny, the hiring of run-based offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer and the loss of Jimmy Graham and Paul Richardson might lead to a switch back to a ground-and-pound scheme.

Penny is unlikely to be a major force as a pass-catcher, but he has tremendous rushing upside. He's immediately in the RB2 mix, with back-end RB1 upside.

Rookie-season projection: 226 carries, 960 yards, 6 TDs; 50 targets, 37 receptions, 311 yards, 1 TD


No. 31: RB Sony Michel to New England Patriots

The Patriots lost Dion Lewis during free agency, and they didn't wait long to replace him, selecting Michel with the penultimate pick of Thursday's first round.

Michel is a physical, elusive runner with good size at 5-foot-11 and 214 pounds. He was one of the most efficient backs in this class last season, averaging 7.9 YPC (best among running backs invited to the 2018 combine), including 2.7 yards after contact (second). He ran for five-plus yards on 49 percent of his carries (best) and 10-plus yards on 21 percent of his rushes (second best). Michel has big upside as a rusher, though he caught only nine of 17 targets last season and has some medical concerns regarding a knee.

Michel figures to step into an early-down role that will provide a significant chunk of the carries and goal line work but not many targets (think LeGarrette Blount, Stevan Ridley and Mike Gillislee). Rex Burkhead and James White also will be heavily involved, which certainly caps Michel's fantasy upside a bit, especially in PPR. Still, this is an extremely high-scoring offense, and Michel can push for 10 touchdowns if he earns lead back duties. He has the early look of a flex target.

Rookie-season projection: 201 carries, 868 yards, 8 TDs, 24 targets; 18 receptions, 150 yards, 1 TD


No. 32: QB Lamar Jackson to Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens traded up and selected Jackson with the final pick of the first round. The former Louisville superstar might not have been the first quarterback selected, but he's certainly the most exciting.

Jackson, whose athletic ability will bring back memories of Michael Vick, racked up 4,132 yards and 50 touchdowns on 655 carries during 38 games at Louisville. He's far from being the most effective thrower, but he is probably a bit underrated at this point. He completed 59 percent of his passes last season, but his 10.5 aDOT was on the high side, and yet he was off target on only 9.7 percent of his throws.

It's fair to wonder if he can hold up in the NFL, considering his playing style and size (6-foot-2, 216 pounds), but Jackson's legs figure to quickly allow him significant fantasy production once he's in the lineup. Of course, with Joe Flacco still in town, it might take some time for Jackson to get that shot. The Ravens' defense remains in good shape, and the AFC is weak right now, so Baltimore figures to remain in the wild-card mix for most of 2018. If that is the case, Jackson figures to struggle to overtake Flacco, even after the veteran posted a horrific 6.7 YPA last season.

Jackson's rushing ability will get him into the QB1 discussion once he's the starter, but first he needs to the steal the job away. He'll be a name to keep on your watch list -- and at the end of your bench in deep leagues -- in 2018.

Rookie-season projection: None