Which 2018 Rookies Will Make an Immediate Fantasy Impact?

Which 2018 Rookies Will Make an Immediate Fantasy Impact?

By John Paulsen (Director of Forecasting), last update Jul 30, 2018

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John was named the Most Accurate Fantasy Football Expert by FantasyPros for the 2010 and 2014 seasons, and has finished in the Top 6 in seven of the last eight years. Cumulatively, John has been the most accurate expert from 2010-17 while also winning the 2011 Fantasy Sports Trade Association award for the most accurate draft rankings. 

Follow John Paulsen on Twitter: @4for4_John.

Now that the 2018 NFL Draft has come and gone, most of the pieces are in place to begin to finalize preseason rankings. We’ll continue to update our projections throughout the offseason, but for now, I wanted to share a few thoughts about this year’s crop of rookies and how they might produce this season.

By the way, if you’re in a dynasty league, you should definitely check out all the content from our friends at Dynasty League Football. They also have more information on the rookies discussed in this article.

First things first: rookies are typically disappointing. For every Ezekiel Elliott or Leonard Fournette, there seem to be five Bishop Sankeys. In fact, over the past nine seasons, a grand total of 40 rookies have offered up starter-caliber PPR numbers, i.e., top-12 quarterbacks and tight ends, top-24 running backs and wide receivers. That’s about four and a half per year. Let’s take a look at the list:

QB: Cam Newton (QB4, 2011), Robert Griffin III (QB5, 2012), Dak Prescott (QB6, 2016), Andrew Luck (QB8, 2012) and Russell Wilson (QB9, 2012). Note: Jameis Winston finished as QB13 in 2015, and Deshaun Watson was well on his way to a QB1 finish last season before tearing his ACL.

RB: Doug Martin (RB2, 2012), Ezekiel Elliott (RB2, 2016), Alvin Kamara (RB3, 2017), Kareem Hunt (RB4, 2017), Alfred Morris (RB7, 2012), Eddie Lacy (RB7, 2013), Trent Richardson (RB8, 2012), David Johnson (RB8, 2015), Todd Gurley (RB9, 2015), Leonard Fournette (RB9, 2017), Christian McCaffrey (RB10, 2017), Jordan Howard (RB10, 2016), Jeremy Hill (RB10, 2014), LeVeon Bell (RB15, 2013), Giovani Bernard (RB16, 2013), Knowshon Moreno (RB18, 2009), Zac Stacy (RB18, 2013), Jahvid Best (RB20, 2010), Duke Johnson (RB24, 2015), and Roy Helu (RB24, 2011).

WR: Odell Beckham (WR7, 2014), Michael Thomas (WR7, 2016), Mike A Williams (WR11, 2010), Mike Evans (WR13, 2014), A.J. Green (WR14, 2011), Kelvin Benjamin (WR15, 2014), Julio Jones (WR17, 2011), Keenan Allen (WR17, 2013), Amari Cooper (WR21, 2015), JuJu Smith-Schuster (WR21, 2017), Torrey Smith (WR23, 2011), and Tyreek Hill (WR24, 2016).

TE: Evan Engram (TE5, 2017), Rob Gronkowski (TE5, 2010), and Aaron Hernandez (TE11, 2010).

Of those 40 players, 18 were drafted by their teams in the first round, eight in the second, six in the third, four in the fourth, three in the fifth, and one in the sixth. Thirty-two of the 40 (80%) were drafted in the first three rounds, so while there are always a few exceptions, redraft fantasy owners should focus their attention on the highly-drafted rookies when looking for the occasional value in the rookie class.

Let’s go position-by-position and discuss some of the players who figure to produce as rookies.

Quarterbacks

As hyped as this class of quarterbacks was, none of the early-round passers are shoo-ins to start Week 1. If he wins the QB1 job, Baker Mayfield will play in the most intriguing offense given the receiving corps (Jarvis Landry, Josh Gordon, Corey Coleman), a couple of up-and-coming tight ends (David Njoku, Seth DeValve), and one of the best receiving backs in the league (Duke Johnson). Mayfield will have to beat out longtime 4for4 favorite Tyrod Taylor, however.

Sam Darnold will have to beat out Josh McCown, who played well last year (67.3% completion rate, 7.4 YPA, 18-to-9 touchdown-to-interception ratio), so the rookie may have to wait in the wings if the Jets remain competitive.

Josh Rosen also finds himself behind an established passer in Sam Bradford. Bradford is injury-prone, so Rosen should see a few starts in 2018.

Josh Allen probably has the easiest path to start in Week 1, since he only has to beat out former fifth-round pick AJ McCarron. But there are serious questions about Allen’s accuracy and readiness to start. He’ll also be throwing to one of the league’s weakest receiving corps. Pass.

Tight Ends

Rookie tight ends rarely make much of a fantasy impact, though Evan Engram posted top-five numbers last season thanks to a series of injuries to the Giants’ receiving corps. Two rookie tight ends are worth a close look this offseason.

The Ravens have been trying to address the position for the last few years. Maxx Williams hasn’t been able to stay healthy, so they pulled the trigger on Hayden Hurst in the first round. He’s explosive for the position and runs violently once he has the ball in his hands. If Hurst has a great minicamp/OTAs and looks primed to start Week 1, he’ll be worth a flier in the later rounds.

The other appealing rookie tight end is Mike Gesicki in Miami. He’s a great athlete and can really fly down the seam with his 4.54 speed. He’ll also provide Adam Gase with a big target in the red zone. Jarvis Landry vacated 161 targets from last year, and the Dolphins have only signed Albert Wilson and Danny Amendola to replace him, so there are plenty of targets up for grabs. Again, if Gesicki is generating buzz this summer, he’ll be worthy of a late-round pick.

Wide Receivers

Continue reading for six rookie wide receivers and eight rookie running backs you should keep an eye on.

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Filed Under:
Preseason
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2018