- Eric Karabell, ESPN.com Senior Writer
The San Diego Chargers did not have an effective running attack in 2009, finishing dead last in the league in yards per carry and second to last (ahead of only the Indianapolis Colts) in rushing yards. While many blame old man LaDainian Tomlinson, the fact is Darren Sproles didn't exactly seize his opportunity either. Sproles averaged 3.7 yards per rush -- better than Tomlinson, but not by much -- and finished 33rd among running backs in standard fantasy scoring. So, with Tomlinson having been released and joining the New York Jets, it's finally time for Sproles to get his chance, right?
Well, the Chargers took care of that angle when they made running back Ryan Mathews the 12th pick in the draft.
As a result, Sproles is one of numerous veteran players in the league who saw their fantasy football value either helped or hurt by actions involving others during the draft. I have doubts the diminutive Sproles is ever going to be a big-time fantasy scorer in the first place, but the drafting of Mathews -- who could be exactly that as a rookie -- solidifies things. Sproles is one of the noteworthy draft day losers, and he wasn't even in the draft.
Let's take a look at other veterans in the fantasy football world affected by the draft goings-on.
• Chaz Schilens, WR, Oakland Raiders: Have you seen JaMarcus Russell throw the football? The pre-draft trade of Jason Campbell certainly helps the offense and its weapons, as Campbell -- no star himself, but someone who threw for 3,618 yards and 20 touchdowns in 2009 -- is a huge upgrade. On ability and potential alone, a healthy Schilens figures to be the team's top wideout this season, and the fact the Raiders selected Clemson's Jacoby Ford shouldn't be viewed as a negative. Schilens, Louis Murphy and last season's top pick Darrius Heyward-Bey need help. I'd call Schilens the best of the bunch, a top-40 wide receiver.
• Alex Smith, QB, San Francisco 49ers: The fact this team drafted not one but two offensive linemen in the first round is certainly big news for running back Frank Gore, but he already has cemented his status as a first-round fantasy pick. Smith, meanwhile, hasn't helped fantasy owners much, but the additions of left tackle Anthony Davis and guard Mike Iupati should change that. A stronger running game will aid Smith, and he already has wide receiver Michael Crabtree at his disposal. Smith should be a popular backup fantasy option in 2010.
• LenDale White, RB, Seattle Seahawks: This one is obvious, since White left the Tennessee Titans, a team with the best running back in the league, for a team with ... Julius Jones and Justin Forsett. Slam dunk! However, the Seahawks also drafted left tackle Russell Okung to help open holes and wide receiver Golden Tate to stretch the field. Sure, the Seahawks added Leon Washington as well, but he's not an every-down back. Neither is Forsett. White is.
• Roy Williams, WR, Dallas Cowboys: There doesn't seem to be much concern about Oklahoma State wide receiver Dez Bryant's ability. Off the field is another story, but his acquisition is a clear sign that Williams should rent, not buy. Williams has been a fantasy disappointment for years, and with Bryant teaming up with Miles Austin Williams is not likely to help fantasy owners this season.
• Jerome Harrison, RB, Cleveland Browns: His late-season emergence had many thinking he was a legit keeper and possible second-round fantasy draft pick, but the fact the Browns traded up to select the bigger, wider Montario Hardesty pokes holes in that theory. It's possible Harrison won't even be the main running back this season, making him a risky top-30 running back.
• Todd Heap, TE, Baltimore Ravens: Heap remains a popular fantasy tight end based mostly on name value, but he did finish 14th at the position in standard fantasy scoring, his best year since 2006. However, the Ravens drafted two tight ends -- Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta -- and that doesn't bode well for Heap's future. If the rookies emerge early, Heap, 30, might not have a role at all.
Too early to tell
• Marshawn Lynch, RB, Buffalo Bills: Obviously it's tough to see how the selection of Clemson's C.J. Spiller, the first running back taken in the draft, helps Lynch, but I think this just makes it so much more obvious that Lynch won't be a Bill in 2010. Spiller can team up with Fred Jackson. A fantasy owner cannot rely on Lynch if drafting today, but by August, Lynch could end up in a better situation, and return to relevance.