Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
Not often can the events of one single day affect the entire landscape of fantasy football.
Thursday was one of those days.
We've known for months that Andrew Luck was going to be an Indianapolis Colt and that Robert Griffin III would be selected by the Washington Redskins. But after that, we weren't sure what was going to happen on the first night of the 2012 NFL Draft.
The first domino to fall after Luck and RG3 were chosen was Alabama running back Trent Richardson, who will don a Cleveland Browns uniform next season.
Minnesota, already in possession of an elite running back in Adrian Peterson, did the smart thing and traded their third overall pick to the Browns for picks in the fourth, fifth and seventh rounds. The Vikings also acquired Cleveland's first-round selection (No. 4 overall).
The move also made sense for the Browns, who have been in dire need of a franchise back ever since Peyton Hillis skipped town, signing with Kansas City earlier this offseason.
After settling for a backup role behind Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram in previous seasons, Richardson had the Alabama backfield all to himself in 2011 and certainly made the most of it. He reeled in more rushing yards (1,679) than any other back in the Southeastern Conference and also collected 338 receiving yards while leading the Crimson Tide to its second national title in three seasons.
Richardson's incredible size (he's almost 230 pounds) and 4.45 speed in the 40-yard dash made him nearly impossible to tackle last season, even against teams like LSU and Penn State, both of whom both pride themselves on stopping the run.
With Hillis gone, only Montario Hardesty can stand in the way of Richardson being the starting running back next year, and even he isn't much of a threat. Hardesty had just 288 yards while battling injuries in 2011.
Just like Reggie Bush in Miami and Chris Johnson in Tennessee, Richardson is a dual rushing and receiving threat and has a nose for the end-zone as well, having produced 24 total touchdowns in college last season. Richardson should be one of the more versatile backs in fantasy next year, even as a rookie.
Cleveland made another gutsy call later in the first round when they selected former Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden at No. 22. Some experts are skeptical about Weeden's age (he turns 29 in October), and it's understandable to wonder how much of his success in college can be attributed to playing alongside wide receiver Justin Blackmon. But even with all of these concerns, Weeden is still an upgrade over current starter Colt McCoy (74.6 QB rating in 2011).
The collateral damage of picking Weeden is that McCoy now finds himself on the trading block. The quarterback carousel ended around the same time Peyton Manning decided to become a Denver Bronco, so it will be interesting to see what the market is for McCoy if the Browns decide to move him. It's doubtful that McCoy will find work as a full-time starter unless someone gets hurt, so he should have almost no fantasy value heading into next season.
If Weeden does earn the starter's job in Cleveland, he won't be in for a pretty fantasy season. Right now, the Browns have a serious lack of weaponry in the receiving corps. Cleveland's leading receiver from a year ago, Greg Little, was only able to haul in 61 catches for 709 yards in 2011.
While Cleveland opted for an offensive overhaul, the Vikings played it safe and went with Southern California's Matt Kalil, a sturdy offensive tackle who can help protect second-year quarterback Christian Ponder in the pocket.
Kalil's real strength is run blocking, however, and if he can make an impact right away, it will undoubtedly increase Adrian Peterson's fantasy value.
Last year, Peterson fell short of the 1,000-yard plateau for the first time in his career after tearing his ACL against the Redskins in Week 16. With Kalil creating space for him in the backfield, it's less likely that Peterson will suffer another severe injury in 2012. If Peterson is healthy, we know he'll be dominant.
Blackmon, who has already drawn comparisons to Terrell Owens, was a great pickup for Jacksonville at No. 5. Clearly, the Jaguars are looking for a more balanced approach on offense next season by snatching up former Cowboy Laurent Robinson (858 receiving yards, 11 touchdowns last season) and now landing Blackmon to complement the team's already effective rushing attack led by Maurice Jones-Drew.
Blackmon was a beast at Oklahoma State, compiling 1,522 yards and 18 touchdown catches last year, and looks as NFL-ready as any player announced at last night's NFL Draft. Still, his effectiveness in year one will hinge largely on the consistency of either Chad Henne or Blaine Gabbert at quarterback.
Henne has been hit-or-miss during his first four years in the league while Gabbert was borderline horrendous as a rookie last year (65.4 QB rating). If either one gets their act together, it will be good for Blackmon and Robinson's fantasy value but bad for Jones-Drew's.
The boldest selection of the first round belonged to the Miami Dolphins, who chose Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill at No. 8.
The relatively unproven prospect has good size (6'4, 220) and scouts seem to like his intangibles (he is a strong leader and was an excellent student during his time in College Station), but his skills are still very raw at this point. He might be better served holding a clipboard on the sidelines and learning from Matt Moore or David Garrard for a couple of years.
If the Dolphins do decide to throw Tannehill into the fire this season, he'll be in for a very tough fantasy year. Without Brandon Marshall in the fold after being traded to Chicago, the Dolphins will have very limited talent at wide receiver.
The first round always has plenty of fantasy relevance, but remember that Tom Brady wasn't taken until pick No. 199 back in 2000. Only time will tell us who this year's hidden gem will be.
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