2020 NFL Draft: Winners and losers from day two see Austin Ekeler, Aaron Jones moving in opposite directions


Making it through the first round with your Fantasy value intact is just the first step. Day two of the NFL Draft is where you really have to hold your breath, with 74 picks to get through, full of players fully expected to make an impact for their teams sooner, rather than later. There are plenty of places in those next two rounds for players to gain or lose Fantasy appeal.

And after Day Two of the draft Friday night, some of the first round’s biggest winners turned into losers, and they were joined by plenty of new names, especially at running back. On the other end of the spectrum, plenty of running backs look a lot better today than they did coming into the draft, after their teams opted to not invest in competition. And we’ve got a handful of quarterbacks whose teams gave them some extra help — that they badly needed.

Some of this stuff could change through the final four rounds of the draft, but players selected there are less likely to have a significant Day One impact, so this is really the last time this weekend we’re going to see anyone’s value move much. Lets’ get to the winners and losers from day two of the NFL Draft:

Winners                     

Austin Ekeler, Jordan Howard, James Conner, Leonard Fournette, Chris Carson

Each of these backs had reason to think their team would target some backfield help — and in Conner’s and Fournette’s case, reports gave us good reason to expect it. Instead, all five come out of the draft’s most important moments having watched the best prospects at the position land in other spots.

Without significant competition outside of Justin Jackson, Ekeler moves into first-round consideration. Carson’s only real competition remains Rashaad Penny, who is returning from an ACL tear, so he’s a solid high-end RB2 if his hip is healthy. Conner and Fournette will probably still see someone added in day three, but neither figures to be pushed too hard by any of those players, though Fournette remains a trade candidate if the Jaguars can find a taker. That will be worth watching throughout the offseason, but he looks good for now. 

And while Howard might not be the sexiest name for Fantasy purposes, he was effective when healthy before Miles Sanders usurped him last season. There’s no Miles Sanders in Miami, whose leading rusher in 2019 was … Ryan Fitzpatrick. It’s not a great offense, but Howard looks set for 250-plus touches, and should be a bargain on Draft Day.

Derek Carr, Gardner Minshew, Philip Rivers

There was some thought Carr and Minshew might have some competition for their jobs from rookies, but that possibility seemed less likely after the first round. Now, it seems basically impossible, and they figure to have more help around them to boot.

In Minshew’s case, it comes in the form of Laviska Shenault, who does some pretty special things when he’s got the ball in his hands. The Jaguars had a decent receiving corps before this, but Shenault has significant upside, and could make a formidable duo with D.J. Chark. Minshew is an underrated borderline Fantasy starter.

Carr got even more help, first in the form of Henry Ruggs in round one, the first wide receiver off the board, and then with back-to-back picks of Lynn Bowden and Bryan Edwards, both of whom have very intriguing skillsets. Bowden was a WR/QB in college, but the Raiders announced him as an RB; he’ll probably be a jack of all trades, and a weapon with the ball in his hands no matter where it happens. And Edwards might have been a first-round pick if not for injuries during the pre-draft process. He played better than his numbers at South Carolina. Carr’s got a ton of weapons now; it’s up to him to make use of them in a contract year, and I still don’t think I like him as much as Minshew, let alone Rivers. 

Rivers never had any competition for his 2020 job once he signed with the Colts, but he did need talent around him. The Colts signed Trey Burton to bolster the tight end group Friday, and then they added wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. from USC with the second pick of the second round and followed up soon after with Jonathan Taylor — my pick for the best back in the class. All of a sudden, this group of weapons doesn’t look half bad, and Rivers is a fine late-round gamble if you want to wait on QB. 

Jarret Stidham

The Patriots told reporters before the draft they viewed the 2019 fourth rounder as a talent on par with the quarterbacks going in Rounds 2 and 3 this year, and they apparently weren’t bluffing. The Patriots passed on the QB position entirely, instead adding two athletic tight ends to feature in the passing game. Brian Hoyer may still start for the Patriots, but there’s no real reason for it if Stidham shows he’s ready, and the first three rounds seem like a pretty resounding vote of confidence in him.

N’Keal Harry

The Patriots also opted to not address the wide receiver position in the first three rounds, despite it being a clear need last year. That seems to represent a similar vote of confidence in Harry, last year’s first-round pick, who struggled with injuries and never really made an impact in his rookie season. Hopefully he’s healthy, because he’s got the athletic profile and draft pedigree to still be a difference maker in Fantasy. He should be one of the best mid-to-late round sleepers at the wide receiver position.

Davante Adams

I don’t know what the Packers are doing, exactly, but it was good news all around for Davante Adams and Allen Lazard, I guess. They took a project QB who won’t play until 2022 at the earliest in the first round, and then took — completely inexplicably — a running back in the third round. That pick certainly has an impact on one of the Packers Fantasy stars, but it shouldn’t be Adams, who needs tons of targets to really be an elite Fantasy receiver and seems assured to receive them now. He’s a viable late first rounder.

Denzel Mims

We thought the Jets would take a wide receiver in the first round, but they pounced on Mims after he fell to the late second. He’s a physical specimen who makes plenty of impressive catches and should step onto the field as the Robby Anderson replacement, if not eventually the No. 1 option for Sam Darnold. Whether Mims can overcome the “Adam Gase factor,” as Ben Gretch put it, is another question, but he’s going to have plenty of opportunity to produce from Week 1.

Losers

Marlon Mack, Kerryon Johnson, Devin Singletary, Ronald Jones, Darrell Henderson

Not all of these backs were in similar spots before this, but they’re in similar ones now: Facing potential battles for their starting jobs from some of the most talented backs in the class.

Mack and Johnson face direct challenges to their jobs from blue chip prospects, in Jonathan Taylor and D’Andre Swift, respectively. Our team is split on who is at more risk, but both could lose their jobs entirely by October. I think Taylor is the better player, and Mack is an on expiring contract, but Johnson’s history of injuries means the Lions might have already soured on him even though he’s not even 23 yet. You can make a case that the rookies in both scenarios should go ahead of the veterans, as early as the fifth or sixth rounds.

Singletary will share the backfield with Zack Moss, in what might be one of the harder to parse picks of the night. Singletary and Moss share a lot of similarities as players, and Buffalo’s isn’t exactly an offense that is super conducive to supporting multiple viable backs; Josh Allen’s dominance near the goal-line as a rusher and his relative unwillingness to throw to his backs limits the ultimate upside. Even if Singletary doesn’t cede a ton of work to Moss, there isn’t much of a margin for error here for Singletary to be a must-start RB. Singletary won’t fall as far on draft boards as Mack or Johnson, and he’ll still go ahead of Moss, certainly. But he could be falling into a TRAP back role here, which would be incredibly frustrating.

As for Jones and Henderson, neither was a guarantee to start even before those picks, but we had our hopes. With challenges from De’Shawn Vaughn and Cam Akers, their chances are even lower. I wouldn’t touch anyone from either of these backfields until the seventh round at the earliest, at least until we get some reports from camp about who might win the jobs.

Aaron Jones

Oh, cool, the Packers have three backs now. Matt LaFleur has talked about wanting three backs for his offense, but it was still a surprise to see the Packers take A.J. Dillon in the second round. This is a team on the verge of contending for a Super Bowl, with an aging, expensive quarterback and an obvious need for playmakers in the passing game, and they spent their first and second round picks on … a project quarterback and a ground-and-pound running back who caught 21 passes in his collegiate career.

Not great news for Rodgers chances of getting back to the elite tier, but it’s even worse news for Jones, who is viewed as a borderline first rounder after his 2019 breakout. He still ceded more work than we would’ve liked to Jamaal Williams last season, and now Dillon stands poised to eat into his role near the goal-line. A truly disastrous outcome for Jones — and for Packers fans, too. He’s a second round pick whose usage might torment you on a weekly basis. Fun!

Jalen Hurts

I very badly wanted to see Hurts land somewhere like New England where he might have a chance to be a contributor in his rookie season. Instead, he winds up backing up a quarterback who is under contract until 2024. That quarterback has had plenty of trouble staying healthy, so it’s possible we see Hurts sooner than later — just ask Nick Foles — but if Carson Wentz stays healthy, we won’t see Hurts at all, save for a random gimmick play here or there. That’s a disappointing outcome for a player with a skill set perfectly tailored to rack up Fantasy points.

Darren Waller

The Raiders didn’t draft direct competition for Waller’s spot in the lineup, which is why he came out of Round 1 as a winner. But, given that he already started losing targets when Hunter Renfrow broke out in the second half of 2019, more competition isn’t a great sign. The Raiders don’t really profile as a team that’s going to air it out a ton, so Waller probably needs to remain their No. 1 option to be a real difference maker at tight end. Getting back to 2019’s target number might be asking too much, let alone asking for it to grow. He’s moving back to the crowd at tight end.

Jace Sternberger

With Jimmy Graham out of the picture, there was some hope that Sternberger could emerge as one of Rodgers’ weapons, but that optimism took a hit when the Packers took Josiah Deguara out of Cincinnati with the 94th pick. That’s not a huge investment, but neither was the investment in Sternberger a year ago. One of the more interesting sleeper tight ends got a bit more competition, meaning Sternberger will go undrafted as often as he finds his way into the later rounds. 





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