The 2011 NFL Draft is in the books. Now that we know where most rookies will be calling home, it's time to examine which veteran players saw their value affected the most, good or bad, as a result of their team's decisions. As you'll see, a number of big-name running backs experienced a significant decrease in fantasy value for the 2011 season.
Sam Bradford, QB, Rams: The Rams didn't add a big-name wide receiver, but the team did land Austin Pettis, Greg Salas and a pass-catching tight end in Lance Kendricks. Pettis is a polished router runner with upside as a slot receiver, while Salas has great hands and could be a nice red-zone option for Bradford. In an offense that is going to throw the football a ton under Josh McDaniels, Bradford is destined to have a ton of sleeper appeal in fantasy drafts.
Carson Palmer, QB, Bengals: The selection of Andy Dalton seems to further indicate the end of Palmer's time in the Queen City. The veteran has already made his desire to be traded or released known, and he seems steadfast in his threat to retire if the Bengals don't accommodate him. If owner Mike Brown has a change of heart and moves Palmer, he should continue to be a viable No. 2 fantasy quarterback in 2011. Otherwise, he won't even be an option on draft day.
Matt Ryan, QB, Falcons: Ryan is coming off his best statistical season, throwing for 3,705 yards with 28 touchdowns. He'll have a chance to improve on those totals further in 2011, as the Falcons landed Julio Jones in the first round. A big, physical receiver who will improve the team's pass attack, Jones joins Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez in an offense that's loaded with talent. That's great news for Ryan, who is a safer No. 1 fantasy quarterback.
Matt Stafford, QB, Lions: If it weren't for his proneness to injuries, I would have Stafford ranked in the top 10 among quarterbacks on NFL.com. The Georgia product already had a star wideout in Calvin Johnson, an experienced veteran in Nate Burleson and talented young tight end in Brandon Pettigrew at his disposal. Now he'll also have an explosive rookie in Titus Young, who will be a real threat in the vertical pass attack. In a best-case scenario, I can see Stafford throwing 30 touchdowns in this offense.
Marion Barber, RB, Cowboys: The selection of DeMarco Murray in the third round of the draft all but ends Barber's time in Dallas. Once considered a legitimate No. 1 fantasy back, the veteran out of Minnesota has lost his burst and explosiveness in recent seasons. With Felix Jones locked into the top spot on the depth chart to go along with Murray and Tashard Choice, Barber is likely to end up in a different uniform as a potential committee back in 2011. He might not even be draftable depending on where he lands.
Jahvid Best, RB, Lions: I thought Best could be one of the better draft bargains in 2011, at least until the Lions added Mikel LeShoure. The bruising running back will join Best and form a potential backfield committee, with Best retaining the starting role and LeShoure moving into a complimentary spot. While he'll retain a lot of his value in PPR formats, Best's stock in standard leagues does take a hit. He's now more of a low-end No. 2 fantasy runner.
Ronnie Brown, RB, Dolphins: Brown and Ricky Williams are not expected to be back with the Dolphins, so it was no surprise to see the team's selection of Daniel Thomas. A big, physical runner, Thomas will be the first rookie selected in most seasonal fantasy drafts. Brown will end up somewhere on an NFL roster, but he seems destined to be no more than a committee runner. The same goes for Williams, who is past his prime at 33.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis, RB, Patriots: The selections of Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley turns the Patriots backfield upside down. Vereen is a potential home run hitter who could earn a third-down role, while Ridley could push Green-Ellis for carries. Regardless, this four-headed backfield monster looks like it could be a major headache in 2011. One thing is for sure -- the Law Firm isn't going to duplicate his impressive 2010 totals again.
Pierre Thomas, RB, Saints: The Saints added the most talented running back in the 2011 class in Mark Ingram, who has a chance to start ahead of Thomas in Week 1. While the veteran will see his share of touches, he'll have little chance to re-capture the level of value he held in 2008-2009. With Chris Ivory and Reggie Bush also in the mix, at least for now, even Ingram's value is going to be somewhat limited this season. Overall, Thomas takes a major value hit.
Ryan Torain, RB, Redskins: Coach Mike Shanahan has confirmed that rookies Roy Helu and Evan Royster will compete for a prominent role in the Redskins offense, so Torain's stock is already falling. While he did show flashes of brilliance last season, Torain continued to prove that he has the durability of a glass chandelier. Helu, a potential sleeper, is a nice fit for the team's zone-blocking scheme and will no doubt push Torain for playing time.
Beanie Wells, RB, Cardinals: The selection of Virginia Tech's Ryan Williams all but ended any chance for Wells to become a reliable fantasy option. The injury-prone back out of Ohio State will now have to compete with Williams and Tim Hightower for touches in what could turn into yet another backfield committee. I see Williams as having the most upside of this trio, leaving Wells with a damaged fantasy stock and far less appeal.
Chad Ochocinco, WR, Bengals: With rookie standout A.J. Green now in the mix and Jerome Simpson expected to take on a starting role, Ochocinco's time in Cincinnati is all but over. Once considered an elite fantasy wideout, his numbers have taken a nosedive in recent seasons. While he's certain to land on another NFL roster (the Patriots have been mentioned), Ochocinco shouldn't be seen as much more than a No. 3 fantasy wideout in 2011.