In the last article we highlighted which NFC players have the most to gain if their current teams don’t draft a player at a similar position. In this article we will discuss which current AFC players have the most to gain in the upcoming NFL draft. What this means is if a team passes on a skill position player or quarterback in the first few round which players currently on those rosters today will have the most to gain.

Each section we will highlight the team, how many picks each team has overall, how many picks they have rounds 1-3 and the players who have the most to gain. This article isn’t a mock or predicting any picks. Most likely at least half of these players we talk about today will be impacted by draft picks, but just in case they aren’t here is why we think they can improve in 2021.

 

Baltimore Ravens
Total picks: 10
Round 1: No. 27, 31 (from Chiefs) overall
Round 2: No. 58
Round 3: No. 104

Impacted Player: Marquise Brown

Marquise Brown turned it on in the second half of 2020 increasing his production in nearly every metric. This spike in production coincides with Mark Andrews missing time due to COVID. However, even after Andrews returned Brown was still producing at a high level. Below are his stats side by side before Andrews went out with Covid and after he returned. The 13.2 points per game (PPG) in those final 6 weeks (including playoffs) would have made Brown the wide receiver 15 in 2020. Brown’s current best ball average draft position (ADP) is wide receiver 36.

Marquise Brown’s Stats
Stats Weeks 1-11
Weeks 14-Playoffs
Games 10 6
Receptions 32 28
Yards 431 410
Targets 56 39
Touchdowns 2 4
Yards Per Target 7.7 10.5
Yards Per Route Run 1.44 2.25
PPG .5 point per reception (PPR) 7.1 13.2

 

Buffalo Bills
Total picks: 7
Round 1: No. 30 overall
Round 2: No. 61
Round 3: No. 93

Impacted Player: Zack Moss

After an early season injury Zack Moss began to see an increase in usage over the second half of the year. Weeks 7-16 (week 17 Bills starters only played a half) Moss was 24th in carries/yards, 12th in carries inside the five with eight and was the running back 28 during that time frame. This includes a stretch (weeks 14-16) where Moss saw 3 of his 4 games with at least 12 carries. Currently Zack Moss is being drafted as the running back 39.

 

Zack Moss’ Usage
Stats Week 7-16
Total Games 11
Games with 10+ Touches 8
Games Played 50% of Snaps 6
PPG (.5 PPR) 8.6
RB Rank (Weeks 7-16) 28

 

Cincinnati Bengals
Total picks: 8
Round 1: No. 5 overall
Round 2: No. 38
Round 3: No. 69

Impacted Player: Tee Higgins

Last season Tee Higgins began week 1 playing behind the likes of John Ross, Auden Tate and Mike Thomas. Immediately after that game Higgins was inserted as a starter. From Weeks 2-11 before Joe Burrow’s injury, Higgins was the wide receiver 19 averaging 12.1 PPG during that stretch. Those numbers increase to 12.5 PPG after week 5 once Higgins’ snap % increased to over 80%. That 12.5 PPG would have been good for wide receiver 20 last year. Higgins is being drafted as the wide receiver 22 in current best ball ADP.

 

Cleveland Browns
Total picks: 9
Round 1: No. 26 overall
Round 2: No. 59
Round 3: Nos. 89, 91 (from Saints)

Impacted Player: Odell Beckham Jr.

Finally, after four seasons straight of not returning value on his ADP Odell Beckham, Jr. is being appropriately drafted as the wide receiver 33 in early best ball ADP. Last season before his injury Beckham was a bit up and down with two wide receiver one performances and four games under 10 points in .5 PPR. However, Baker’s improved play down the stretch going from the quarterback 32 in PFF’s passing grades with Odell to the quarterback three after his injury could help bring some more consistency to Odell’s game in 2021.

Denver Broncos
Total picks: 9
Round 1: No. 9 overall
Round 2: No. 40
Round 3: No. 71

Impacted Player: Drew Lock

Heading into his second season in Offensive Coordinator Pat Shurmur’s scheme Drew Lock now has all the tools to be a QB1 in fantasy. The return of Courtland Sutton along with Jerry Jeudy and K.J. Hamler heading into their second seasons provides room for growth. In 12 full games last year Lock’s 16 game pace was 3,884 passing yards, 21/20 touchdown to interception ratio and additional 213 yards and four scores on the ground. This production would have made Lock the quarterback 18 last year.

 

Houston Texans

Total picks: 8
Round 1: N/A
Round 2: N/A
Round 3: No. 67

Impacted Player: Brandin Cooks

The Deshaun Watson situation is going to dictate where Brandin Cooks falls in drafts. However, if Watson does play Cooks’ offers a lot of upside. In the four games Cooks played without Will Fuller last year Cooks was the wide receiver three averaging 18.9 PPG. The Texans did bring in Tyrod Taylor as security so if Tyrod is the starter week one he did support a wide receiver one season from Sammy Watkins in 2015. More recently Jarvis Landry had success with Taylor going 7-105 and 5-69 in his two starts with The Browns. Cooks is currently going as the wide receiver 37 in best ball ADP.

 

Indianapolis Colts
Total picks: 6
Round 1: No. 21 overall
Round 2: No. 54
Round 3: N/A

Impacted Player: T.Y. Hilton

T.Y. Hilton was quietly the wide receiver 14 averaging 12.3 PPG in .5 PPR over the final eight weeks of the regular season. Hilton during that stretch was 18th in yards, 6th in TDs, 4th in red zone targets, 6th in end zone targets and 20th in yards per route run. Hilton even flashed his deep speed securing five of 13 passes for 176 yards on targets of 20 or more yards downfield. New quarterback Carson Wentz will be more willing to take shots downfield as he attempted a deep pass on 13.7% of his passes vs. 9.9% for Philip Rivers in 2020.

 

Jacksonville Jaguars
Total picks: 10
Round 1: Nos. 1, 25 (from Rams) overall
Round 2: Nos. 33, 45 (from Vikings)
Round 3: No. 65

Impacted Player: Laviska Shenault Jr.

Yes, you can easily put James Robinson here, but we should all know by now if the Jaguars don’t take an running back early that Robinson could make big strides in his second season. The reason why we have Shenault here is his role in the slot. With the Jaguars bringing in Marvin Jones to play on the outside along with D.J. Chark, Shenault looks like the logical fit inside with Keelan Cole leaving in free agency. Last year Shenault averaged 1.72 yards per route run when in the slot vs. 1.48 out wide. New Jaguars Offensive Coordinator Darrell Bevell has featured slot wide receivers as a play caller including wide receiver one seasons from both Doug Baldwin and Percy Harvin.

 

Kansas City Chiefs
Total picks: 8
Round 1: N/A
Round 2: No. 58 (from Ravens), 63 overall
Round 3: No. 94

Impacted Player: Demarcus Robinson

The position battle between Demarcus Robinson, Mecole Hardman and Byron Pringle for the wide receiver two spot will be impactful for fantasy. However, it was Robinson in 2020 who saw the biggest bump in production when Sammy Watkins missed time. Last year in the five full games that Watkins missed Robinson was a near full time starter finishing third on the team in routes, targets and touchdowns while scoring 8.6 PPG. This includes three games where he finished as a top 36 wide receiver or better. Robinson is currently being drafted as the WR99.

 

Las Vegas Raiders
Total picks: 8
Round 1: No. 17 overall
Round 2: No. 48
Round 3: Nos. 79 (from Cardinals), 80

Impacted Player: John Brown

With Henry Ruggs and Bryan Edwards still relatively unknowns, John Brown could be stepping into a sizeable role in 2020. Last year Nelson Agholor posted a 48-896-8 line while finishing as the wide receiver 30. Insert John Brown who has proven to produce when needed as a defacto #1. In 2019 for the Bills, Brown cruised to a solid 72-1,060-6 line as the wide receiver 23 in fantasy. Brown is an elite deep threat and with Agholor vacating the 15th most deep targets, 9th most receptions, 6th most yards and 2nd most touchdowns, Brown is more than capable of handling that role in 2021.

 

Los Angeles Chargers
Total picks: 9
Round 1: No. 13 overall
Round 2: No. 47
Round 3: Nos. 77, 97

Impacted Player: Austin Ekeler

New Offensive Coordinator Joe Lombardi comes from an offense in New Orleans that routinely featured Alvin Kamara in the pass game. This led to Kamara being the running back one in fantasy in 2021. In the two seasons that Joe Lombardi was the Offensive Coordinator in Detroit those Lions teams led the NFL in running back targets. In 2014 three different running backs saw at least 50 targets and in 2015 Theo Riddick had 99 targets that year. This emphasis in running back targets should help keep Austin Ekeler firmly on the running back one map in 2021.

 

Miami Dolphins
Total picks: 8
Round 1: Nos. 6 (from Eagles), 18 overall
Round 2: Nos. 36 (from Texans), 50
Round 3: No. 81

Impacted Player: Myles Gaskin

Last year in the 10 full games Myles Gaskins played he averaged 14.8 PPG in .5 PPR. That was good for RB11 in PPG. In those contests Gaskin was used as clear lead back seeing over 18 touches per game. In the games with Tua Tagovailoa those touches jumped to over 21 per game. Pre-draft the only notable signing the Dolphins made this offseason was grabbing career backup Malcolm Brown from the Rams. Currently being drafted as the running back 31 in early ADP, Gaskins should return top 24 value if he returns as the lead back.

 

New England Patriots
Total picks: 10
Round 1: No. 15 overall
Round 2: No. 46
Round 3: No. 96

Impacted Player: Cam Newton

In 2020 Cam Newton had a career lows across the board in the pass game. However, Newton had to deal with a limited offseason then he contracted COVID which he was on record saying impacted his play. This on top of dealing with a pass catching core that only featured one wide receiver or tight end that was inside the top 85 in Pro football focus receiving grades made the situation nearly impossible to succeed in. In 2021 the Patriots completely revamped their pass catching core bringing in Jonnu Smith, Nelson Agholor, Kendrick Bourne and Hunter Henry. This to go along with his career high 9.1 rushing attempts per game is a situation that puts Newton on track to be a dark horse quarterback one.

 

New York Jets
Total picks: 10
Round 1: Nos. 2, 23 (from Seahawks) overall
Round 2: No. 34
Round 3: Nos. 66, 86 (from Seahawks)

Impacted Player: Chris Herndon

Back in 2018 Chris Herndon posted one of the best rookie seasons for a tight end with a quality 39-502-4 line. Since then, he was Adam Gased and hasn’t produced much of anything in 2019 and 2020. New Offensive Coordinator Mike LaFleur is bringing over the Kyle Shanahan offense after spending the last seven seasons under him. Since Kyle Shanahan became a play caller his system has produced six tight end one seasons on a PPG basis including George Kittle (2), Fred Davis, Jordan Reed, Chris Cooley and Owen Daniels.

 

Pittsburgh Steelers
Total picks: 8
Round 1: No. 24 overall
Round 2: No. 55
Round 3: No. 87

Impacted Player: Anthony McFarland and Benny Snell Jr.

It seems like a near lock that the Steelers take an running back early, but just in case they don’t hear are some thoughts on why either Anthony McFarland or Benny Snell Jr. could succeed in 2021.
Anthony McFarland played under new Steelers Offensive Coordinator Matt Canada in 2018. During that season he had his best year of his college career posting a 131-1034-4 line on 7.9 yards per carry (YPC). That YPC was tied for 6th in the nation.

Benny Snell Jr. showed flashes of being a potential bellcow in 2020. In three games where he received at least 15 carries he had a combined yardage total of 104 (receiving and rushing yards) and 13.4 PPG in .5 PPR. Those numbers would have been tied him with Antonio Gibson for the running back 18 in 2020.

 

Tennessee Titans
Total picks: 9
Round 1: No. 22 overall
Round 2: No. 53
Round 3: Nos. 85, 100

Impacted Player: Anthony Firkser

Targets behind A.J. Brown are wide open as the Titans are vacating 224 targets from 2020. Last season Anthony Firkser split work with Jonnu Smith seeing 53 targets to 65 for Smith. This duo combined for an impressive 80-835-9 which would have been good enough for the tight end three in fantasy. Currently the backup tight end on the roster is Geoff Swaim who has a career high 32 targets in a season. If Firkser can monopolize most of the targets that are vacated by Jonnu Smith he could flirt with tight end one value in 2021.

 

References: Razzball, NFL.com, Pro Football Focus, Pro Football Reference, Sharp Football Stats and Fantasy Pros

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *