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Matthew Berry’s Love/Hate Post-NFL Draft

Justin Herbert

Justin Herbert

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The phrase “knee-jerk” reaction stems from the test you take when you go to the doctor’s office for a check-up. The doctor will take a rubber triangle-shaped mallet and hit your patellar tendon, right around the knee area. Assuming your knee is working correctly, your knee will have an immediate reflex, extending your leg forward.

In practical terms, having a “knee-jerk” reaction means an immediate opinion on something, an automatic “take” without much thought. As a result, you often don’t need the word “knee” in there to describe the reaction.

Analysis without much data leaves us all looking stupid. Last year at this time the fantasy community was excited for the massive target share available for Atlanta’s first-round pick, WR Drake London (who wound up as a fantasy disappointment last season) and no one talked about the Falcons fifth-round selection, RB Tyler Allgeier, who would end up rushing for over 1,000 yards.

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The same thing happened with the Titans when they drafted WR Treylon Burks in the first round. Everyone was excited because Burks was going to slide right into A.J. Brown’s vacated role, but I don’t think anyone mentioned the Titans’ Round 4 selection, TE Chigoziem Okonkwo, who was a very valuable contributor down the stretch last year at a weak position.

After last year’s NFL draft, fantasy managers also got angry that the two best running backs in the class – Breece Hall and Kenneth Walker III -- landed in “poor spots”. It was hard to see either back getting significant playing time right away because Hall was going to split the Jets’ backfield with Michael Carter behind a bad offensive line and Walker was going to back up Rashaad Penny on the Seahawks. We were obviously wrong on both accounts.

Speaking of the Jets, their rookie first-round wide receiver, Garrett Wilson, got very little praise compared to London or Burks. With the Jets QB situation how could they ever get the ball to Wilson, who had to compete for targets with Elijah Moore and Corey Davis? Wilson then went on to win NFL OROY.

We excitedly discussed the second-round draft capital of wide receivers like Alec Pierce landing with the Colts, Skyy Moore in Kansas City, Wan’Dale Robinson with the Giants and Tyquan Thornton of the Patriots, none of whom did much in fantasy last year for a variety of reasons.

However, a year ago at this time no one discussed Day 3 picks Chiefs RB Isiah Pacheco, 49ers QB Brock Purdy or Packers WR Romeo Doubs, all of whom contributed to fantasy success last year, some in massive ways.

It’s not to say there were nothing but misses. I’m cherry picking some specific examples, while ignoring all the hits like Saints WR Chris Olave, Texans RB Dameon Pierce and Packers WR Christian Watson who were all identified as rookies landing in spots where there would be a lot of opportunity. And in cases like Hall, Walker, Wilson and more we weren’t wrong about the talent, we were just wrong in the immediate aftermath about the landing spot.

The point is… we don’t know.

We don’t know how coaches feel about these players, who in some cases were drafted by general managers, rather than the coach. We don’t know how players will react when they get to the pros. We don’t know if, or when, opportunity will arise for these players. Pacheco and Purdy both got their chances because of injuries to players ahead of them, and in Purdy’s case, multiple players.

But a column full of “Well let’s wait and see” isn’t fun at all. And let’s face it, we can’t actually wait and see. With more and more Best Ball and Dynasty leagues drafting every single day, it’s important to understand current value and perception of players, even if it’s likely to change for at least some of them at some point in the next 12 months. (Blatant plug: If you’re looking for more Dynasty and Best Ball rankings, tools and advice, go check out my website. Six great sites for one low price – our early bird special is going on now.)

Okay. With that preamble, here’s the Post-NFL Draft edition of Love/Hate. The premise is slightly different than the in-season version. This one is based entirely on value. Players whose value changed as a result of the moves made by their team during the NFL Draft weekend. It’s not just about the rookies drafted. Sometimes it’s a current player who gained value because his team added no one. Or a current player who lost a lot of value because his team drafted someone to take his place. Just read. You’ll get it. “Loves” are players whose fantasy value improved after NFL Draft weekend and “Hates” are players whose value has dropped after NFL Draft weekend.

One last piece of housekeeping before we start. As long as we are talking about unexpected opportunity, I’d like to take a moment to let you know I will be part of NBC’s coverage of the 149th Kentucky Derby this Saturday, May 6. Yes! I know. Crazy. I’m so excited. I can’t wait. Coverage begins on NBC at noon ET and I will make multiple appearances throughout the broadcast (7 hours!), talking betting, interviewing some celebs and a few other surprises. Anyways, tune in. I’ve now seen everything that is going into the broadcast and forget me, it’s gonna be awesome.

Okay. Let’s get to it. As always, thanks to my producer Damian Dabrowski for his help at various points in this column.

Here we go:

Post-NFL Draft LOVE List

Lamar Jackson, QB, Ravens

Lamar Jackson signing the largest contract in NFL history just hours before the first round on Thursday stabilizes his fantasy stock. (Call me crazy, but I like quarterbacks who aren’t a risk to sit out the season.) But it’s not just the idea of Jackson suiting up in Week 1 that puts him on the post-NFL Draft Love list. Although, let’s be real: Jackson simply taking the field is plenty of reason to be excited. Even with recent injury issues, he has four straight seasons with 750-plus rush yards and has averaged 20.0 FPPG in three of the past four seasons. Jackson’s already insane fantasy floor now adds an even higher ceiling with the additions of free agent Odell Beckham and standout Boston College receiver Zay Flowers through the draft. That pair – added to tight end Mark Andrews and a healthy Rashod Bateman – gives Jackson the best set of pass catchers he’s had since entering the league. (Also, coach John Harbaugh, please give TE Isaiah Likely a real shot). Anyways, a week ago he was a pick that carried risk. But now, even at a loaded position, Jackson is again a clear Top 5 fantasy quarterback.

Justin Herbert, QB, Chargers

Justin Herbert has one of the biggest arms in football, which made it even more disappointing to see him check down so much during the 2022 season. There’s simply no reason Justin Herbert should be 27th in deep ball rate. Yet that’s what we saw a season ago. Gross. I mean, if you can hit your driver 360 yards down the middle of the fairway, why tee-off on every hole with your 9-iron? (Is that a golf joke that I threw in to try and suck up to NBC owned Golf Channel in hopes of doing golf stuff the way I’m doing the Kentucky Derby this week? Mayyyyybe). Either way, last year, the Bolts did just that, tee off with a 9 iron and as a result friend of the podcast Austin Ekeler was a short receptions machine. Ekeler himself mentioned on our show that with the injury to Jalen Guyton last year they really didn’t have a true field stretcher to open up the offense. So, now the addition of TCU receiver Quentin Johnston with the 21st pick should help stretch the field and add a much-needed vertical element to that Chargers offense. In fact, he averaged 19 yards per reception in his college career. And Herbert last season, even in that check-down offense, was still third in passing yards per game and second in pass attempts per game. So now with a new deep threat receiver to also help open up stuff for Keenan Allen and Mike Williams, Herbert is a top 6 QB for me.

Geno Smith, QB, Seahawks

Last season, Geno Smith led the league in completion percentage (69.8), was tied for the most games with two-plus touchdown passes (12) and posted 17-plus fantasy points in 11 of 17 games. It was impressive. And the Seahawks clearly don’t think it was a fluke because Seattle didn’t draft a quarterback in the 2023 NFL Draft. Ten picks for the Seahawks and not a quarterback in the bunch. The job was always going to be Smith’s this year, but Geno’s dynasty stock is way up after Seattle was rumored to be in the mix for Anthony Richardson, or maybe even Will Levis. So the job is his and it’s a job that got easier with the addition of maybe the top wide receiver in the draft, Ohio State’s Jaxon Smith-Njigba, who joins a receiving corps that already includes DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett. The addition of Day 2 running back Zach Charbonnet adds even more talent around Smith. I have him as a Top 15 quarterback entering the 2023 season.

Bijan Robinson, RB, Falcons

Bijan Robinson was already the top-rated rookie running back in fantasy (and No. 1 overall in dynasty) before the draft, but he couldn’t have landed in a much better situation for fake football production than Atlanta. Last season the Falcons had the second-most running back carries in the NFL and led the league in rushing yards from the running back position. Head coach Arthur Smith loves having a clear RB1. I mean, in Smith’s two seasons as the offensive coordinator in Tennessee, Derrick Henry had an insane 718 touches, putting up 1,500-plus rushing yards and 15-plus rushing scores in both of those seasons. Robinson’s selection at No. 8 overall also puts him in pretty exclusive company with Saquon Barkley, Leonard Fournette, Christian McCaffrey, Ezekiel Elliott, Todd Gurley and Trent Richardson as backs who have been taken in the Top 10 of the NFL Draft since 2012. Get this: those six backs combined to average 295 touches in their rookie seasons. You draft a back that early to play him. Robinson is going to get the ball a ton. The other thing that is exciting about Robinson is his versatility in the passing game. Don’t be surprised to see Robinson used in ways the Falcons used Cordarrelle Patterson the last two years. In the backfield, in the slot, all over. He is going to touch the ball a TON. He’s a super talented player with massive opportunity. The hype is real. Bijan Robinson is a Top 5 fantasy back in Year One. Draft him early and often.

Tony Pollard, RB, Cowboys

Tony Pollard has averaged 19.6 FPPG in his 13 career games with at least 15 touches. (That would’ve been good for RB3 in PPG in 2022.) Last season, Pollard was one of two running backs to average at least 5.0 YPC and 9.0 YPR. He was also one of six backs with 1,200-plus total yards AND more than 12 touchdowns. The only negative for Pollard entering the season was the risk that the Cowboys would spend draft capital on a running back that might steal touches. I don’t see 5-foot-5, 179-pound, sixth-round pick Deuce Vaughn as that. There’s still a chance that Ezekiel Elliott could come back, but as we sit here post-draft, Pollard remains the clear lead back in Dallas and is in line for a career-high in touches. He also remains a Top 10 fantasy back.

Rhamondre Stevenson, RB, Patriots

Bill Belichick is slipping. With Damien Harris gone, Rhamondre Stevenson looked to be the clear RB1 in New England. But of course Belichick would ruin that for us, right? Of course he’d draft a running back and throw Stevenson into a committee, proving once again that he hates fantasy (and my fantasy team, specifically). But despite 12 picks in the 2023 NFL Draft, New England didn’t take one running back. The Patriots drafted a kicker. And a punter. And THREE cornerbacks. But not one running back. Which means Stevenson really is the guy. Which is huge. Don’t forget, from Weeks 3-13 last season, Stevenson was RB3 with an average of 18.7 FPPG. Stevenson’s usage in the passing game was a big part (his 17% target share was third among backs in 2022), and with nary a pass-catching back selected in the draft by the Patriots, that role remains secure. I have Stevenson as a Top 12 back entering the season. Thanks, Coach Belichick!

Rachaad White, RB, Bucs

The Bucs did not select a single running back in the draft, meaning their RB depth chart remains Rachaad White, Chase Edmonds and Ke’Shawn Vaughn. Of note: the Bucs also didn’t take a quarterback in the draft, meaning their QB depth chart remains Baker Mayfield and Kyle Trask. Bucs, you are aware this was the real draft, right? It wasn’t just another mock. Okay. Cool. Just wanted to make sure. Anyway, back to White … the Bucs are clearly confident in him taking on the bulk of the work. Last season he had at least 11 touches in each of his last eight games (excluding Week 18) and was one of just 10 running backs last season with 120-plus carries and 50-plus receptions. I’m not expecting the Bucs’ offense to blow anyone away in 2023, but White will get plenty of work on all three downs. He’s a Top 20-25 back for me.

Jahmyr Gibbs, RB, Lions

Did the Lions reach for Jahmyr Gibbs at No. 12 overall considering they had D’Andre Swift and David Montgomery on the roster? That’s not for me to judge. What I do know is that one man’s reach can be another man’s fantasy reward. With the Lions spending the 12th overall pick on Gibbs (and then promptly dealing D’Andre Swift to the Eagles) they definitely like him and, more importantly, plan to use him heavily in their offense. Of the last 12 backs drafted in the first round, 11 of them saw at least 200 touches. Even with Swift never really finding his game in Detroit, he did still finish as a Top 15 running back in PPG in each of his three seasons. I mean seriously. Detroit seemed to HATE D’Andre Swift and yet Swift still managed to average over five targets a game with at least 45 receptions in every season in Detroit (and he missed games in every year). There’s no reason Gibbs can’t match and succeed that level of production in an efficient Lions offense. He’s an RB2 out of the gate with upside for more.

Jordan Addison, WR, Vikings

Many Vikings fans are desperate for the team to move on from Kirk Cousins. Instead, the Vikings just keep surrounding him with elite weapons. Epic troll job, Vikings front office. Well done. And Addison truly is a weapon who popped off the screen at both Pitt and USC. He now steps into a Vikings lineup in which Justin Jefferson will draw the top opposing cover corner every week. Plus, Adam Thielen‘s departure means 107 targets are up for grabs. (Thielen, by the way, ran the second-most routes of any receiver in the NFL last season.) Even in a world where Addison opens the season as the third receiver behind Jefferson and K.J. Osborn, that’s not terrible! Osborn saw 90 targets as Minnesota’s WR3 last season and played at least 70% of snaps in 12 of 17 games. Heading into drafts, Addison is the top rookie receiver in re-draft leagues.

Quentin Johnston, WR, Chargers

Quentin Johnston averaged 19 yards per reception in his college career with 42% of his targets coming on deep passes. That makes him a perfect match for Justin Herbert who, since entering the NFL, ranks Top 5 in completions and attempts on passes of 15-plus air yards. Herbert is desperate for a deep target … or really any target who can stay healthy. Keenan Allen and Mike Williams combined to miss 11 games last season. I love Johnston’s upside in the Chargers offense. At least, as long as the TCU product doesn’t have to play Georgia (or NFL Georgia aka the Philadelphia Eagles).

Others receiving votes: QB Kenny Pickett put up double-digit fantasy points in his last seven (full) games played as a rookie, and since the season ended the Steelers traded for Allen Robinson to be his WR3, traded up in the draft for an offensive tackle in the first round to protect Pickett’s blind side and then added 6'7” tight end Darnell Washington in the Round 3 to help in the red zone. The Steelers have placed a lot of trust (and weapons) in Pickett’s tiny hands. … Jordan Love doesn’t make the Love list just yet. However, Green Bay taking a wide receiver and two tight ends on Day 2 adds a lot of talent to the Packers offense and has me calling their new starting quarterback Jordan Others Receiving Votes. (Okay, I’ll admit that nicknames may not be my strong suit.) … Ryan Tannehill? More like Ryan TanneStillHere, amiright? (Did I mention that I’m not good at nicknames? I did? Okay, cool.) Look, it’s clear the Titans would like to replace Tannehill. The early-round selections of Malik Willis and Will Levis the last two drafts make that clear. But for a guy that was rumored to be losing his job last year, his leash just got a bit longer. Willis and Levis are both still projects and not immediate threats to start, which makes Tannehill a viable fantasy starter in deeper leagues and two-quarterback leagues. … Despite rumors about the Commanders being in on Lamar Jackson, or wanting to potentially select Hendon Hooker if he was there in the first (he was), and passing on Will Levis in the first when he fell… Washington did nothing at the QB position. The Commanders have insisted all off-season that Sam Howell is their guy and the NFL Draft certainly seemed to solidify that … Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel was ecstatic to land Texas A&M back Devon Achane (and his 4.32 speed) late in the third round. I love Achane and his skill set is a perfect fit for Miami. Considering Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson, Jr. struggle to stay healthy, Achane could be a big part of a good offense sooner rather than later. … The Panthers had a lot of needs but didn’t add a running back in the draft. On a team with a good offensive line that should be run heavy as it eases in first overall pick Bryce Young, this is good news for Miles Sanders and Chuba Hubbard, both of whom should get enough work to be FLEX viable. … Speaking of teams not adding running backs, both James Conner and Isiah Pacheco should be in for big workloads this year after Arizona and Kansas City failed to add anyone. They’d be in the “Love” section except for the fact the Cardinals aren’t going to be very good, limiting Conner’s upside (and they’ll give some work to Keaontay Ingram too) and I still expect Kansas City to re-sign Jerrick McKinnon. Still, those were two teams that easily could have drafted a viable running back and neither did …. Back to Carolina. While the Panthers didn’t get a running back, they did use their first pick of the second round on wide receiver Jonathan Mingo to give Bryce Young a young receiver to grow with. Considering Adam Thielen turns 33 before the season and that D.J. Chark has missed 19 games over the past two seasons, Mingo might be Young’s go-to option sooner than later. … I’m not saying Rashee Rice will be the next Jerry Rice. All I’m saying is that there’s every reason to be excited about the fantasy prospects of a young, talented receiver playing with Patrick Mahomes, who actively asked Chiefs management to draft Rice. At 6-foot-1, 205 pounds, Rice can play inside or outside. With Skyy Moore and Richie James manning the slot – and Kadarius Toney frequently injured – Rice could quickly put up numbers in the Chiefs offense. … Sean Payton had to wait until the last pick of the second round to make his first draft selection with the Broncos. That means you know he put some thought into selecting Marvin Mims and his 4.38 40 speed. Mims also averaged over 20 yards per catch in each of his past two seasons at Oklahoma. Considering Russell Wilson was third in deep-ball rate in 2022, and that Denver’s receiving corps is in a major state of flux, Payton is sure to give his first pick plenty of run. … I’m happy to give Nathaniel Dell some love just for his nickname alone. Tank Dell is simply a great nickname. (Yeah, even better than Ryan Tannestillhere.) Dell was the only FBS receiver with 1,300-plus receiving yards in each of the past two seasons. With C.J. Stroud‘s other options at receiver being Robert Woods, Nico Collins, T’Variuness King and Noah Brown (I’m pretty sure at least one of those guys is made up) – Dell could be Houston’s WR1 by Week 1. … In his last two seasons at Tennessee, Jalin Hyatt ranked Top 5 in completion rate on deep passes. Now he joins a Giants receiving corps that is long on depth but lacking in explosive playmaking. I like Hyatt’s chances to break through. If he does, get ready to cash in your Hyatt points. … The Browns should be much more pass-heavy in their second season with Deshaun Watson. Cleveland’s third-round pick, Cedric Tillman, can benefit from that if he beats out Donovan Peoples-Jones for the WR3 spot. … Dalton Kincaid could be Josh Allen’s defacto WR3. The great news is that he’ll be labeled a TE in fantasy. It’s basically a cheat code. Kincaid led all FBS tight ends last season with 70 receptions and should immediately slot in as, er, Buffalo’s slot receiver, a role the Bills are so desperate to fill they brought Cole Beasley back off his couch last season towards the end … Sam LaPorta doesn’t have T.J. Hockenson‘s epic man-bun/beard combo, but he will inherit the 18% target share Hockenson received in Detroit’s offense before he was dealt to Minnesota. The second-round pick should start Week 1 with only Brock Wright and Shane Zylstra listed on Detroit’s TE depth chart…Thought my friend Matthew Freedman (@MattFthe Oracle) made a great point on Twitter about Juwan Johnson. The Saints didn’t draft a tight end, didn’t draft a WR until Round 6 and traded TE Adam Trautman to Denver on Day 3. Johnson, who had a mini-breakout last year could easily be a Top 10 fantasy tight end this year at a weak position.

Post-NFL Draft HATE List

Kenneth Walker/Zach Charbonnet, RBs, Seahawks

Look, I’m not saying drafting Zach Charbonnet was the worst running back-related decision in Seattle Seahawks franchise history. I recall a play in Super Bowl XLIX that should have gone to a running back, but didn’t. But the Charbonnet pick has left me more distraught than watching Malcolm Butler pick off Russell Wilson because that game was just the Super Bowl, and this is about fantasy. I mean, in Kenneth Walker we had a chance for that rarest of modern fantasy gifts: a true RB1. Last season as a rookie, Walker had 21-plus carries six times. In his last three games, he averaged 26 carries. But now, the talented Charbonnet will surely take some of that work away. And maybe even for good reason. Not all of Walker’s numbers were positive in his rookie campaign. Last season he had seven games in which he averaged under 4.0 YPC and four games under 3.0 YPC. He was also tackled for a loss 33 times – third-most among all backs. But I also don’t love this pick for Charbonnet’s fantasy prospects. On almost any other team, he wouldn’t be second on the depth chart to a 22-year-old back coming off of a 1,000-yard, nine touchdown season. I wanted to Love both Kenneth Walker and Zach Charbonnet … but I Hate everything about this likely timeshare.

DK Metcalf/Tyler Lockett, WRs, Seahawks

Yeah, Seahawks GM John Schneider and I are not on good terms right now. Sure, he added a ton of talent in the draft via WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba and RB Zach Charbonnet – talent that instantly makes the Seahawks better on the field. I guess you could say that is quote-unquote “his actual job.” But what about all the Kenneth Walker, DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett managers he jobbed with his moves? Huh? WHAT ABOUT THEM?! Metcalf has three straight seasons with at least a 24% target share and Lockett has three straight with a target share of at least 22.5%. JSN’s arrival will likely cut into that. And the biggest hit should come to Lockett. Smith-Njigba will likely play primarily out of the slot, while 42% of Lockett’s targets over the past two seasons have come in the slot. Metcalf drops to a WR2 for me in fantasy, with Lockett falling into the WR3 range.

Alvin Kamara, RB, Saints

The signing of Jamaal Williams and a looming suspension already put Alvin Kamara on my 2023 Hate List. As did the fact that Kamara had a career-low 18% target share last season and scored in just two games. But then the Saints went and drafted TCU running back Kendre Miller in the third round. The Saints are clearly preparing for life without Alvin Kamara. You should prepare to draft him as no more than a low-end RB2.

Every Eagles RB

Rashaad Penny had a lot of upside entering the 2023 season. That is, before the Eagles acquired D’Andre Swift during the draft. Kenneth Gainwell had value, too, as Philadelphia’s presumed primary receiving back. But Swift will likely edge Gainwell out of that role. Swift averaged a 16.5% target share in Detroit over the past two seasons, a major reason he finished as a Top 15 back in PPR every season since entering the league. There simply aren’t enough RB targets in Philadelphia to make multiple backs consistently productive. The Eagles ranked dead-last in running back target share in 2022 and add in the fact that Jalen Hurts takes away a ton of goal line carries from running backs and this is #notideal. As a Commanders fan I’m super annoyed with how well GM Howie Roseman did in the draft and as a fantasy manager I’m going to be super annoyed with the running back by committee, plus Jalen Hurts approach to Philly’s run game in 2023.

Tyler Allgeier, RB, Falcons

As a former sitcom writer, I know what it looks like when a character is about to get written out of a show. That is 100% what is happening in Atlanta to Tyler Allgeier with the Bijan Robinson selection. Allgeier was RB8 in FPPG during the fantasy playoffs, including 20-plus touches in each of his last three games. All of that is well and good, but Allgeier is going to have almost no value in 2023 barring an injury to Robinson. The Falcons didn’t spend the No. 8 overall pick on Robinson in order to give Allgeier a share of the running back touches. Allgeier is a bit character at best in 2023. I have him slated as an RB4.