By Zach Cohen
The first three rounds of the NFL draft are done, which means it’s already time to start thinking about the next most important thing: fantasy football season!
As you rejoice, or weep, about your favorite team’s haul, remember that your fantasy team is where your true love lies; and what better way to get a head start on the competition by looking at the big winners so far in fantasy. We’ll start with a pair of rookies followed by a few veterans.
Feel free to let me know on Twitter, @ZachCohenFB, any other picks you loved for fantasy football purposes.
Terrace Marshall Jr., WR, Carolina Panthers
I tried to find a funny pun to insert here, but I think I’ll pass. And that’s exactly what the Carolina Panthers do: pass.
The Panthers had the 15th-highest pass-rate percentage in the NFL. What should catch your eye is that Carolina had three receivers average between 14 and 14.1 fantasy points per game last season. Clearly, the volume is there to sustain three viable fantasy receivers. One of those pass-catchers, Curtis Samuel, is in Washington now; and that opens the door for a promising young rookie to strut on through.
Remember, Samuel was on pace to be just shy of 1,000 yards. He was also treated as WR3 with roughly 6.5 targets a game. Slide Terrace Marshall Jr. into that role and he can only go up from there. While Marshall isn’t as versatile as Samuel, he still has a clear path to double-digit fantasy points each week. Depending on how you feel about quarterback Sam Darnold, Carolina may have a better quarterback at the helm too. The upside is certainly here for Marshall.
Rashod Bateman, WR, Baltimore Ravens
This is the perfect pick for the Baltimore Ravens. Marquise Brown is the home-run hitter in this offense, while Rashod Bateman becomes the chains-mover. Bateman can be a vertical threat too. His versatility is important because the Ravens didn’t really have a receiver like him with his level of talent last season. Yes, Baltimore ran the ball on 44.96% of its plays last season, the lowest rate in the league, but that doesn’t automatically discard Bateman as a receiving option.
Correlation doesn’t imply causation.
Maybe having another viable pass-catcher will allow the Ravens to throw the ball more. The worst-case scenario here is Baltimore remains run-heavy, which isn’t that terrible because Bateman can still eat up WR2 targets. Brown led the team with 100 targets, tight end Mark Andrews was second with 88, and Willie Snead was third with 48. Bateman is better than Snead and should eat into Brown’s targets, maybe more so than you think.
Joe Burrow, QB, Cincinnati Bengals
Joe Burrow was a massive winner of the first three rounds, plain and simple. He should be thrilled with getting his old college teammate, Ja’Marr Chase, to join receivers Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd, and Auden Tate and even running back Joe Mixon. The addition of offensive tackle Jackson Carman may yield some promise, though he was The Draft Network’s OT9; the Bengals labeled him as a guard.
If Burrow’s recovery from his ACL tear goes well, I would 100% take a look at Burrow in fantasy drafts. He may already be a weekly starter. Before his injury, Burrow was on pace to be QB14 through 10 weeks. There were some players in front of him who I wouldn’t have over Burrow, including Pittsburgh Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger; Teddy Bridgewater, who’s now in Denver, and Deshaun Watson, whose future in Houston is now in jeopardy. As promising as Burrow looked at times last season, his stock is fully contingent on his full recovery. Pay close attention to news about him in training camp.
Allen Robinson, WR, Chicago Bears
It’s one thing when you’re no longer catching passes from quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. It’s another when you may suddenly have a quarterback like Justin Fields. Fields was The Draft Network’s consensus QB2 for a reason. On top of that, keeping Fields—or likely Week 1 quarterback Andy Dalton—upright is important too.
Protect the passer, and he can actually throw passes; it’s funny how that works! The addition of Teven Jenkins should definitely help in that regard. However, the real reason I’m so high on Allen Robinson is whether it’s Dalton or Fields tossing the ball, they’re both arguably upgrades over Trubisky. Think about this: Robinson was WR9 in points-per-reception formats last year and WR8 in 2019. There’s nothing to suggest a change in usage because Matt Nagy is still in charge—for now. Unless Fields or Dalton completely bomb, Robinson can only get better. Keep an eye on his average draft position as fantasy drafts near; I expect it to be around WR9.
Myles Gaskin (Miami Dolphins), Chase Edmonds (Arizona Cardinals), Mike Davis (Atlanta Falcons)
The true winners of the NFL draft are veteran running backs—so far. The Miami Dolphins, Arizona Cardinals, and Panthers have yet to select a fresh new running back, and while that can certainly change, it should reveal a little bit of confidence that each team has in their respective vet.
Myles Gaskin played surprisingly well last season with an average of 12.3 points per game, which would be good for RB13. Miami’s offensive line is arguably better than what it fielded last season, especially with the addition of Liam Eichenberg. Chase Edmonds has been a fantasy darling of mine for some time, which is why it hurt when Arizona signed James Conner. I can’t see Conner taking too much away from Edmonds in the passing game, though Edmonds may have to miss out on a few more plays inside the 10. He still carries a good amount of upside. As for Mike Davis, he’ll probably be drafted four rounds too late. The 28-year-old veteran showed he still has fuel left in the tank—which feels weird to say about someone his age—by posting multiple 20-point performances. Davis could be an incredible value if the Falcons don’t draft a running back in Day 3; of course, that can be said about each of these players, which I expect to happen. I may have just wasted 230 words on soon-to-be benched players. Oh well.