Veterans feeling the rookie pinch
In the days leading up to the draft, you saw plenty of footage of the rookies-to-be smiling bright and gazing into a future of promise and success.
Notice how you didn't see many veterans smiling. For many of the seasoned vets, the draft represents a wake-up call: Roughly 250 jobs will be turned over in the coming months. In a league of 1,500 players, that's close to 20 percent of the entire player workforce that will be out of work because their employers "hired" someone else to do their jobs.
But it's not all bad for veterans: Many of them not only keep their jobs, but are now put in a position to do better at it thanks to the draft. Their teammates might be out of work in favor of younger, fresher talent, but they're still working. And smiling.
Here are five veterans whose Fantasy stock improved following the draft along with five veterans who likely weren't doing cartwheels after the NFL Draft wrapped up.
Frank Gore , RB, San Francisco
Before the draft there were whispers that the 49ers were going to look at C.J. Spiller and other rookie rushers to help take the load off of Gore. Not only did the team not draft a rusher with a prominent pick but they spent both of their first-round picks on offensive linemen. Thanks to the drafting of tackle Anthony Davis and guard Mike Iupati , Gore's line should be the best it's ever been for him. The team's drafting of power back Anthony Dixon in Round 6 does nothing to make us think Gore won't get the work to be a 300-total-touch running back in 2010. And as an aside, the same logic for Gore applies to his quarterback, Alex Smith , who himself was rumored to be receiving company at his position via the draft. Without an extra rookie passer, Smith will enjoy his O-line just as much as Gore will.
Tony Romo , QB, Dallas
It's tough to imagine Romo throwing for more than the 4,483 yards he had last season, but the addition of Dez Bryant to his receiving corps will do nothing but improve his totals. Bryant is a receiver I had pegged as an NFL-ready player in spite of his off-the-field missteps at Oklahoma State. While Bryant himself might have had more stats somewhere else, he'll help contribute to Romo's totals and thus create a fourth playmaker for Romo to target. Imagine trying to defend the Cowboys with Bryant, Miles Austin , Jason Witten and Roy Williams on the field at once! Romo could potentially set career-highs in completion percentage, passing yards and touchdowns (and interceptions) this season thanks to the addition of Bryant. That puts him in the conversation as one of the best Fantasy quarterback options after the elite guys (Brees, Rodgers, Manning) are off the board. As Fantasy drafts go, that makes Romo a tremendous bargain.
Brandon Jacobs , RB, N.Y. Giants
Like Gore, pre-draft rumors suggested that the Giants wanted to bring in another running back. That didn't happen, a sign that they are indeed content with Jacobs taking up a sizable portion of their run game. Though there is an expectation that Ahmad Bradshaw will see a little more work in 2010 compared to 2009, Jacobs should still see his fair share of touches and be a force at the goal line. Now that he's past his post-big contract year, a rebound is certainly not out of the question.
Jason Campbell , QB, Oakland
Obviously Campbell regains some Fantasy value as he goes from a clipboard holder in Washington to the presumed starter in Oakland. And now that the Raiders have extended his contract, their investment in him is stronger, thus necessitating him becoming the starter in place of JaMarcus Russell and Bruce Gradkowski . Campbell has been labeled a bust because he didn't help the Redskins much, but he's coming off a career year and has shown some good ability. Moreover, one could argue that the talent he'll have to throw to in Oakland is just as good as the talent he had in Washington. Zach Miller will quickly become a favorite of his, but the likes of Louis Murphy and Chaz Schilens should help him acclimate to the Raiders' offense. Even Darrius Heyward-Bey could blossom a bit with a better passer. Campbell has a good shot to match his 3,618 passing yards and 20 scores from last season.
Josh Freeman , QB, Tampa Bay
The Buccaneers' decision to draft two receivers with excellent size and good ability should go a long way for Freeman. Arrelious Benn of Illinois is considered the better option over Mike Williams of Syracuse, and Benn is the one who should crack the lineup first. He'll warrant coverage that no one else in the Bucs' wide receiving corps deserves, and that's saying something about what the Bucs had before the draft. Freeman was already considered a decent sleeper thanks to his own playmaking ability, but the arrival of these receivers along with Kellen Winslow patrolling the field lend hope that Freeman's passing totals can be markedly improved.
Other veterans on the rise: Cardinals QB Matt Leinart , Raiders TE Zach Miller , Bengals QB Carson Palmer
Jamaal Charles , RB, Kansas City
First, Charles saw Thomas Jones come to town to take a chunk of his carries off of his plate. Now the Chiefs have added the unique talents of Dexter McCluster via the draft to take receptions off of his (and Jones') plate. McCluster is expected to be a slot presence for Kansas City, and his combination of quickness and hands will be irresistible for offensive coordinator Charlie Weis to ignore. The short-area receptions McCluster will get might have otherwise gone to Charles, and there's even a chance the converted running back from Ole Miss will get some carries here and there. So what's left for Charles to do? Get about 15 carries and a couple of catches per game, which is a shame since he proved in '09 that he was extremely versatile and talented. He's more of a No. 2 Fantasy rusher with some risk -- a far cry from the low-end No. 1 stud we pegged him as at the start of the offseason.
Jerome Harrison , RB, Cleveland
We learned what the league thought of Harrison this offseason when no one lifted a finger to sign him as a restricted free agent at the second-round level. Now we know what the Browns think of him after they traded three picks to move up in Round 2 and draft running back Montario Hardesty . We took another look at Harrison and noticed a few things: His strong finish last season came in games where he had at least 33 carries -- practically an anomaly in the NFL today. They also came at the expense of some awful run defense teams: the Chiefs, Raiders and Jaguars. And in the final two games he averaged 3.8 yards per carry, which hints that he needed every bit of those 33 or more carries to rumble to over 100 yards per game. Now we see what the rest of the NFL, including the Browns, see: Harrison can't do it alone. Anyone who drafts him with visions of how he ended 2009 dancing in their heads is legitimately dreaming.
Fred Jackson , Marshawn Lynch , RBs, Buffalo
The Fantasy universe was already sour on Marshawn Lynch , and there's a decent chance he'll be on a new team before the season starts in September. But the drafting of C.J. Spiller with the ninth overall pick also puts a big dent in the expectations of Fred Jackson . One of our favorites last season, Jackson can wave goodbye to the 275-touch totals and 1,400 total yards he had last season; 1,000 total yards seem more likely now that he'll be losing totes and catches to Spiller (and maybe Lynch if he sticks around). Really, on a team riddled with holes on offense, the last thing the Bills should have done is pick a running back when they already have an answer there in Jackson.
Julius Jones , Justin Forsett , LenDale White , Leon Washington , RBs, Seattle
If there weren't enough questions about the Seattle run game before the draft, there certainly are enough now. The team held on to Julius Jones and Justin Forsett , last year's running backs, and acquired LenDale White and Leon Washington during the draft. That's four running backs of relative ability vying for reps -- a Fantasy owner's nightmare. What's worse is that Washington was considered a deep sleeper candidate once he got off the Jets' roster, but he seems locked into a third-down type of role with the Seahawks. The guy with upside is Forsett, but with that crowded backfield, who's to say he'll have a chance to reach that upside? Until the situation plays itself out this summer, Fantasy owners should be skeptical of all Seahawks rushers.
Roy Williams , WR, Dallas
Williams was headed for Fantasy benches before the draft, but the selection of Dez Bryant by the Cowboys (who moved up to get him) suggests that Williams' role is headed for a serious reduction. That only makes sense after his inconsistent play last season. The expectation now is that Williams still has a chance to start but will share playing time and give up targets to Bryant. Before the draft Williams was slotted as a quality Fantasy reserve. Now? It wouldn't be a surprise to see drafts go by without the receiver selected at all. He might still be a decent source for touchdowns and work as an acceptable one-week replacement, but that's the kind of receiver you can find off waivers.
Other veterans on the decline: Bills WR Lee Evans , Ravens TE Todd Heap , Panthers QB Matt Moore , Texans RB Steve Slaton , Lions RB Kevin Smith , Chargers RB Darren Sproles
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