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Worst Fantasy Football Landing Spots in the NFL Draft

NFL Fantasy

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Michael Dolan

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At the end of the day, talent should almost always trump landing spot in dynasty fantasy football. But that doesn’t mean landing spots should be viewed as a complete afterthought. Rookies who enter the league with favorable situations not only have a better chance to produce right out of the gates, but they’re also provided better opportunities to find long-term success. 

 

Unfortunately, for every rookie with a good landing spot, there’s also one with a bad one. Whether it’s due to a lack of immediate opportunity, a poorly run organization, or bad talent around them on offense, sometimes rookies fail due to factors they can’t control. In this article, I’ll walk through 5 rookies who appear to have gotten the short end of the stick on draft night. Many of them possess enough talent to overcome their sticky situations, but there’s no denying they face an uphill battle.

Garrett Wilson, WR, New York Jets

The Jets drafted Garrett Wilson 10th overall to add yet another weapon in the passing game for sophomore quarterback Zach Wilson. While I’m generally bullish on Zach Wilson and the Jets offense entering year two, there’s no denying this unit remains a question mark.

Additional hiccups for the rookie receiver include the presence of fantasy football darling Elijah Moore. Entering his second NFL season, Moore’s largely viewed as the favorite to lead the Jets in targets in 2022. Mix in the fact that New York drafted running back Breece Hall early in the second round, and it doesn’t appear Wilson is stepping into an environment where the volume to be an elite fantasy football option will be there anytime soon.

However, this doesn’t mean we should be writing Wilson’s obituary already. The arrow is clearly pointing up in New York, and if the offense takes a step forward and Wilson can establish himself as the 1B in the passing game, he could produce WR2/FLEX output quicker than many may expect. At the end of the day though, a lot needs to break right before Wilson reaches the ceiling many believe he’s capable of.

Malik Willis, QB, Tennessee Titans

Talk about a draft day tumble. After many predicted Malik Willis would be the first quarterback to hear his name called on draft night, he wound up falling all the way to the 86th overall pick before the Titans — a team with an established veteran QB — ultimately stopped his slide.

Willis was always viewed as a project for whichever NFL team drafted him, yet the physical traits he possessed had many thinking he was a first-round talent. It’s now clear the NFL was much lower on Willis than the media was, and the chances of him seeing playing time right away just dipped from low to nearly impossible. 

Willis’ physical traits still provide him with massive long-term upside, but the path to reaching that upside is one of the more difficult ones for any of this year’s prospects. Not only will Willis likely spend time on the bench, but the Titans also just traded away A.J. Brown, who would’ve been Willis’ No. 1 option in the passing game. The one positive here is Willis’ horrible situation will surely cause his dynasty ADP to fall, which could provide value for any fantasy managers willing to take a chance on one of the draft’s more volatile prospects.

Jahan Dotson, WR, Washington Commanders

Much like Wilson, Jahan Dotson’s first-round draft capital makes him an intriguing prospect, but the situation he landed in is far from desirable. Washington’s offense struggled to move the ball last year, and the addition of QB Carson Wentz likely won’t turn them into an offensive juggernaut any time soon. 

Terry McLaurin is largely viewed as a star wide receiver, but in this Washington offense he couldn’t even crack the top 20 WRs in fantasy scoring last year. It’s almost impossible to envision Dotson exceeding McLaurin’s fantasy output any time soon, so even if Wentz does provide the overall offense with a boost, it’s hard to envision him supporting two (or more) fantasy-relevant wide receivers. 

Add in the presence of established vets Antonio Gibson, Curtis Samuel and Logan Thomas, and the path to early targets gets even murkier for Dotson. The one silver lining here is McLaurin’s rookie contract is set to expire soon, and it’s possible Washington follows the trend of trading away a star receiver rather than paying them. Banking on this would be a total dice roll though, and as it currently stands the path to fantasy relevancy is a daunting one for Dotson.

 

Kenneth Walker, RB, Seattle Seahawks

Normally, a running back drafted in the early second round would be a fantasy football goldmine. However, as is typically the case when Seattle’s on the clock, conventional wisdom gets thrown out the window.

The Seahawks offense struggled mightily last year, and that was when they had an established star in Russell Wilson leading the charge. With Drew Lock (?) manning the quarterback position in 2022, it’s hard to envision the Seahawks being a fantasy-friendly offense for anyone. 

On the bright side, Rashaad Penny finished the year emphatically as the Seahawks No. 1 back, scoring four touchdowns over the final three weeks of the season. Penny was a surprise league-winner for many fantasy football managers in 2021, and it’s not hard to envision Kenneth Walker eventually getting the opportunity to one day do the same. The problem is, Penny re-signed with Seattle this past offseason so there will be stiff competition for carries in year one. Walker’s an extremely talented back, but the poor offense, presence of an established vet, and lack of passing game work mean he’s a long shot to provide fantasy value anytime soon.

George Pickens, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers

Death, taxes and Steelers’ wide receivers.

There are no sure things in the NFL draft, but Pittsburgh’s history of drafting wide receivers is pretty darn close. From Antonio Brown to JuJu Smith-Schuster to Diontae Johnson, the Steelers have produced a seemingly endless line of fantasy football studs at the receiver position. There’s reason to believe George Pickens can be the next name on the list, but even the stellar draft history doesn’t make his landing spot a favorable one.

Getting targets in this Steelers offense is going to be a tough uphill battle for Pickens. Diontae Johnson finished tied for second in the league in targets last year, and Najee Harris finished tied for first at the running back position. Throw Chase Claypool and Pat Freiermuth into the mix, and there’s not a ton of market share available for Pickens to gobble up in the short term. Of course, we also can’t forget the fact that Pittsburgh will likely be trotting out a rookie quarterback in 2022 (Kenny Pickett), and the quality of those targets doesn’t inspire optimism either.

There have been rumors Pittsburgh is frustrated with Claypool, and if Pickens can jump him on the depth chart – either now or down the line – his outlook could improve quickly. The Steelers seem to have a knack for drafting receivers, so Pickens could prove to be a valuable long-term commodity in fantasy football leagues if the situation around him improves. Unfortunately, getting immediate production would likely require more than a few lucky breaks.

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