Panthers GM Dave Gettleman threw out a Curtis Martin comparison when discussing 8th overall pick Christian McCaffrey. “The best tackle-box runner I’ve ever seen is Curtis Martin out of Pitt. Christian is right there with him," Gettleman said. "Running in that tackle box takes unique vision and unique quickness, and he’s got it. Curtis Martin had it, and he had a great career – a Hall of Fame career – and this kid’s got those kind of skills.” It's noteworthy that Gettleman praised McCaffrey's inside running ability. We know he's a big threat outside the tackles and in the passing game, but Carolina clearly sees him as a lead ball-carrier. McCaffrey is a good bet to out-touch veteran RB Jonathan Stewart this year.
Texans HC Bill O’Brien threw cold water on the notion that QB Deshaun Watson would start Week 1. "As a rookie quarterback it's a big jump," O'Brien said. “Tom [Savage] is our starter and Deshaun will come in and he's going to work hard and we're going to teach him and feed him a lot of information. And he'll work at it.” GM Rick Smith added: "I don't know if people believe us but we're comfortable with Tom Savage as our quarterback.” Ultimately, we think Watson could push for the starting gig with a strong summer. While he’s transitioning from a spread offense, the Clemson product enters the NFL with 35 college starts.
The Steelers grabbed OLB T.J. Watt with the 30th pick in Round 1. Watt delivered just 1 year of big production at Wisconsin. But he followed that 11.5-sack season with a terrific Scouting Combine. Pittsburgh will have an interesting pass rush in 2017 between Watt and Bud Dupree. We'll see how quickly Watt can work toward a starting role.
The 49ers traded up to get a 2nd pick in Round 1 Thursday night and selected LB Reuben Foster. The Alabama alum slid a long way after a Combine that included a failed drug test and him getting sent home for mistreating an orderly. In San Francisco, Foster should win a starting job right away in the Niners' now 4-3 front. We'll see how the new coaching staff chooses to align him and NaVorro Bowman.
The Cowboys spent their 1st-round pick on DE Taco Charlton. The former Wolverine finished a solid college career with 10 sacks and 13 total tackles for loss as a senior. That followed just 9 total sacks over his previous 2 seasons. Charlton should compete for a starting role right away on a defense that has gotten barely anything out of former 2nd-rounder Randy Gregory.
The Browns acquired the 29th overall pick from the Packers — their 3rd first rounder — and selected Miami TE David Njoku. Njoku might have even more pass-catching upside than O.J. Howard. He broke out for a 43-698-8 line this past season, averaging a ludicrous 11.2 yards after the catch. He goes 6’4, 246 pounds and crushed the Combine, earning a 97th percentile SPARQ score. And he doesn’t turn 21 until July. We wouldn’t bet on Njoku emerging as a major fantasy factor on the rebuilding Browns this year, but there’s huge long-term upside here.
After trading down from 10th overall, the Bills drafted LSU CB Tre'Davious White. He should find an immediate shot to replace CB Stephon Gilmore, who signed with the Patriots in free agency. White picked 6 passes across 4 years, with no more than 2 in any season. He defensed a career-high 14 passes as a senior. White also delivered punt-return TDs in each of the past 3 seasons. Should he start, playing across from CB Ronald Darby might help direct throws to his side of the field. There's fantasy upside here if he starts.
The Falcons traded up from 31st overall to 26th to draft edge rusher Takkarist McKinley. We'll see whether the Atlanta scheme sets him up at DE or OLB. McKinley overcame injuries to rack up 10 sacks and 18 total tackles for loss in his final season at UCLA. He should pair with Vic Beasley to beef up the Falcons pass rush in a defense with plenty of fantasy football upside.
The Browns spent their 2nd pick of Round 1 on Michigan's Jabrill Peppers. A safety primarily, Peppers lined up at 15 different positions over the 2016 season, according to ESPN. He'll likely play safety almost exclusively in Cleveland. Peppers grabbed just 1 INT over 3 seasons with the Wolverines but also delivered 13 tackles for loss as a LB last year, including 3 sacks. There's IDP upside as long as Peppers' name doesn't boost his fantasy ADP too high.
The Raiders selected Ohio State CB Gareon Conley at #24 in the 1st round of the NFL Draft. The corner likely slipped because of recent rape allegations, though there haven't been any formal charges. According to Adam Schefter, the Ravens gave him a polygraph test that he passed. On the field, Conley picked 6 passes and defensed 13 over the past 2 seasons. He'll likely open as Oakland's #3 CB, behind David Amerson and Sean Smith.