The NFL Draft injects plenty of new names into the fantasy football landscape. It is still very early in the offseason, but here is a snapshot of what you should be able to expect.
1) DE/OLB Jadeveon Clowney, Houston Texans
Fantasy analysis: Clowney probably will play a mixture of defensive end and outside linebacker for the Texans' 3-4 base defense. Giving him the benefit of the doubt, Clowney should immediate upgrade for a defense that was miserable a year ago. Fantasy owners should earmark this extremely gifted group as a low-end DT1, but this unit will have to stay healthy to have even an outside chance at meeting their potential under DC Romeo Crennel. Clowney's IDP value is modest at defensive end and practically nil in standard scoring formats if he plays OLB.
2) OT Greg Robinson, St. Louis Rams
Fantasy football analysis: Robinson is a dancing bear who needs to improve his pass protection, but that's like saying Kate Upton needs to get hotter. Robinson's spot is unclear, however, and it may be dictated by the health of current left tackle Jake Long (knee). Robinson could begin his career at guard before taking over for Long or replacing Joseph Barksdale at right tackle. Regardless, St. Louis' run blocking immediate improves, and their pass protection cannot be worse because of this pick. Bump up Zac Stacy a hair.
3) QB Blake Bortles, Jacksonville Jaguars
Fantasy football analysis: It is tough to imagine Bortles starts the year, or at least right away. QB Chad Henne can take the lumps while Bortles learns from the sidelines early in the year. Jacksonville desperately needs weapons at wide receiver. Bortles plays a lot like Pittsburgh Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger, in terms of their shared improvisational style. The rookie shouldn't be on your fantasy radar for 2014.
4) WR Sammy Watkins, Buffalo Bills
Fantasy football analysis: Buffalo coveted Watkins and traded up for him, giving them a slew of capable players at the position. Look for veteran WR Stevie Johnson to be traded. Watkins is almost guaranteed to be a Week 1 starter and could grow with QB EJ Manuel. Buffalo also added former Tampa Bay Buccaneers wideout Mike Williams this offseason. Last year's second-round pick, Robert Woods, should be in the mix, too. T.J. Graham, Ramses Barden and Marquise Goodwin should vie for the scraps. Watkins can do a little bit of everything and has impressive hands. His fantasy value is a little murky until we see more of how Buffalo uses him, but expect a lot of wide-open passing in upstate New York this season. Pencil him in as a WR3 for the time being.
5) OLB Khalil Mack, Oakland Raiders
Fantasy football analysis: The best player in the draft, by my evaluation, immediately upgrades the freshly defensive-minded Raiders. They have been on a mission this offseason to bolster that side of the ball, presumably to slow down their offensively potent divisional rivals. From a fantasy perspective, Mack could be the missing piece to taking this D from the doldrums to the penthouse of fantasy sleeper defenses. Oakland has a tough win-loss schedule in 2014, but they could put up fantasy points in leagues that do not penalize for points against. Mack is a quality LB2 or third fantasy linebacker in IDP leagues.
6) OT Jake Matthews, Atlanta Falcons
Fantasy football analysis: Matthews likely starts from Day 1 at right tackle and improves in both blocking fronts. He is rock-solid but not elite. It all starts upfront, which is a huge need for this offense. Matt Ryan needs better protection after taking 44 sacks last year (54 the previous two seasons combined). This smart, sound pick will permeate goodness throughout the offense and only help from a fantasy perspective.
7) WR Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Fantasy football analysis: Standing 6-foot-5, 231 pounds, timed at 4.46 seconds in the 40-yard dash, Evans should be an immediate starter opposite Vincent Jackson's 6-foot-5 frame. Yikes! Quarterback Josh McCown receives a small fantasy bump, because even though Evans' route tree is limited, his catching radius makes up for it. Defenses will have to pick their poison as long as Evans even has a pulse. He is a low-end WR3 in standard formats, perhaps slightly better in PPR leagues, and could be an erratic touchdown machine as a rookie.
8) CB Justin Gilbert, Cleveland Browns
Fantasy football analysis: Cleveland traded up a selection to get Gilbert and plan to start him right away opposite stud corner Joe Haden. A rookie corner who is a decent tackler and will see a ton of balls come his way in avoidance of Haden ... sounds like a solid IDP gamble to me. Gilbert is a versatile player and a great return man. He could immediate improve Cleveland's overall team defense, which already has considerable potential.
9) OLB Anthony Barr, Minnesota Vikings
Fantasy football analysis: Barr, a former running back just a few years ago, has tremendous upside but may be reserved to pass-rushing situations in Minnesota. He has practically no IDP value in Year 1 and may not make a noticeable contribution to the overall team defense of blockers can focus on eliminating him from the game plan. After the loss of DE Jared Allen, Minnesota's D has no business being on your fantasy draft radar.
10) TE Eric Ebron, Detroit Lions
Fantasy football analysis: The Lions will play a lot of two-tight end sets, but where exactly does the rookie fit in after Detroit re-signed Brandon Pettigrew and saw Joseph Fauria emerge as a viable option in 2013? The super-athletic rookie could be flexed into the slot, because Detroit really doesn't have a reliable receiver there, with Ryan Broyles (Achilles') on the mend once again. Ebron's role will dictate his value, but rookie tight ends rarely contribute much to fantasy rosters. He still has to contend with Calvin Johnson, Golden Tate, Fauria, Reggie Bush and Joique Bell for catches. Ebron will be a popular fantasy choice in full-retention keeper formats and likely overdrafted in single-year setups.
Cory is KFFL's General Manager. In late 2002, he joined the KFFL staff as a research analyst and has been involved in fantasy sports since 1996. A member of the Fantasy Sports Trade Association, as well as Fantasy Sports Writers Association, Bonini has been featured in print, on radio and on scores of websites. Bonini co-hosted Big Lead Sports on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio from 2011 to 2012.
Bonini was recognized with the 2010 Best Article in Print Award from the FSWA and was a finalist for the same award in 2011. In '11, he finished first overall in the FSWA NFL experts challenge that featured 60 of the industry's best competitors.