With the NFL Draft approaching on April 23, it’s time to take stock of NFL rosters to find prime opportunities for the incoming rookie class. Even the most talented rookie can get buried on a depth chart in the NFL, while a fourth-round pick could break out in year one if drafted into the right situation.
This series of articles will search each NFL roster for glaring holes in the depth chart, focusing on the fantasy football positions of quarterback, running back, wide receiver, and tight end. If a talented rookie is drafted to fill one of the following roster holes, we could have the formula in place for a fantasy football difference-maker.
Houston Texans: WR depth, RB depth
The Texans notably traded mega-stud wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins this offseason because they didn’t want to pay him. They still have a talented roster led by franchise quarterback Deshaun Watson. At the running back position, they traded for former beast David Johnson and have passing-down specialist Duke Johnson returning. The Texans have some decent pieces at wide receiver, with Will Fuller and Kenny Stills for one more year along with newly acquired Brandin Cooks and Randall Cobb. They also have plenty of depth at tight end with everyone signed for at least two years.
David Johnson was a top-10 running back before he got injured last year. After the injury, he lost his job and just never looked healthy. The Texans are counting on him to be the lead back in this backfield and that is a question mark in itself at this point. Duke Johnson once again showed his prowess in the passing game as he was the number two running back in terms of yards per touch. These two are both under contract for two more years. I would think that the Texans will want to draft a running back as David Johnson insurance in case he cannot return to form.
The wide receiver depth is more for future years as I don’t see a day two or three receiver making an impact over the four established veterans on their roster now. Fuller and Still are both free agents after the 2020 season so a wide receiver drafted this year could be someone to look out for in 2021.
Indianapolis Colts: QB of future, WR2, TE
The Colts have two second-round picks and a third-round pick among their seven total draft picks this year. The Colts made a splash and signed veteran quarterback Phillip Rivers to a one year deal this offseason. He is paired with now backup quarterback Jacoby Brissett, both scheduled to be free agents next off-season. They have some good running back depth but starter Marlon Mack is in the final year of his contract. At wide receiver, the Colts return star receiver T.Y. Hilton, second-year Parris Campbell, and breakout receiver Zach Pascal. The Colts lost red zone tight end Eric Ebron to free agency this offseason but return starter Jack Doyle.
Both of the Colts’ top-two quarterbacks are free agents after this year and it remains to be seen if project Chad Kelly is in their future plans. If the Colts see a developmental project they like this could be a good year to grab them in the mid-rounds. Rivers and Brissett combined are making $46 mill this year so the free-agent quarterback market could be in play for the Colts next year.
The Colts signed Devin Funchess last year to be the big-bodied wide receiver two for them but he missed 15 of the 16 games due to injury and is now in Green Bay. Last year’s second-round pick Campbell should fit well in the slot role but he too missed significant time last year due to injury. Pascal tied for the team lead in targets a year ago and had a very nice 14.8 yards per reception. Star wide receiver Hilton is due to be a free agent after this year so wide receiver depth and someone to compete for that WR2 role is important for the Colts.
At tight end, Ebron missed some games with injury last year but was a consistent red-zone threat for the Colts during his career. They return starter Doyle but lack another quality playmaker such as Ebron to go alongside him. I could see the Colts drafting a raw, developmental type with good traits to learn beside Doyle. They also signed blocking tight end Xavier Grimble, but he isn’t fantasy relevant.
Jacksonville Jaguars: RB2, TE
The Jaguars currently have two first-round picks as well as a second, third, and three fourth-round picks! They should be able to add some talent back to this defense and along the offensive line as well. It looks they are going forward with Gardner Minshew as their quarterback. He is young and cheap for the next three years but I could see the Jags taking a developmental quarterback later in the draft. They have their workhorse Leonard Fournette at running back and they also have a deep stable of receivers. The Jaguars signed Tyler Eifert to hopefully offer some production at their tight end position. Their top tight end a season ago had 20 targets.
Fournette doesn’t offer much explosiveness in the running game, though he will for sure be the lead back this season. I can see the Jaguars grabbing a better change of pace option than Ryquell Armstead provided them last season, as he averaged only 3.1 yards per carry and caught only 58% of his targets out of the backfield. I don’t see the Jaguars grabbing a premier back in this class but maybe using one of their fourth rounders to give Armstead some competition for the backup running back job. We know in fantasy it is important to be aware of the running back pecking order behind the lead back.
The Jaguars have some depth at tight end with Eifert, James O’Shaughnessy, and last year’s third-round pick Josh Oliver. Oliver played in four games and had six targets last year and O’Shaugnessy caught 14 of his measly 20 targets. I don’t see the Jaguars spending significant draft capital here but I do see them wanting to add someone else to the tight end group.
Tennessee Titans: RB2, TE
The Titans are lacking impact draft capital this year with one pick in each of the first three rounds (29th in each) and then one fifth-round pick and three seventh-round picks. They have their man at quarterback, inking Ryan Tannehill to a new four-year deal. At running back, they bring back rushing leader Derrick Henry but he is on a franchise tag and will be a free agent. Passing game running back Dion Lewis is gone, leaving a void behind Henry. The Titans bring back their top-three receivers in A.J. Brown, Corey Davis, and Adam Humphries. At tight end, the Titans are moving on without long time starter Delanie Walker but have some decent depth behind him.
Lewis had 54 carries and 32 targets a year ago and those numbers seem about right for the back that plays behind Henry. Current second-string running back Dalyn Dawkins had 11 carries for 26 yards and one target last year, not exactly encouraging numbers. It is also worth noting that Henry will be a free agent after this year. The Titans will surely want to grab a back or two to compete for the number two job with Dawkins.
The Titans have Jonnu Smith, Anthony Firkser, and MyCole Pruitt all returning from last year. Smith and Firkser had some decent moments last season and are one and two on the depth chart. The reasoning behind this need is that Smith and Pruitt are free agents next year and Firkser is a restricted free agent himself. The Titans can use a late pick on a developmental tight end behind these top three.
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