Which 2019 Rookies Will Make an Immediate Fantasy Impact?
Now that the 2019 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 have more information on the rookies discussed in this article.
First things first: rookies are typically disappointing. For every Ezekiel Elliott or Saquon Barkley, there seem to be five Bishop Sankeys. In fact, over the past six seasons, a grand total of 27 rookies have offered up starter-caliber numbers in half-PPR formats, i.e., they finished as top-12 quarterbacks and tight ends, top-24 running backs and wide receivers. That’s four and a half per year. Let’s take a look at the list:
QB (1): Dak Prescott (QB6, 2016)
RB (16): Saquon Barkley (RB1, 2018), Ezekiel Elliott (RB2, 2016), Alvin Kamara (RB3, 2017), Kareem Hunt (RB4, 2017), Eddie Lacy (RB7, 2013), David Johnson (RB8, 2015), Leonard Fournette (RB8, 2017), Todd Gurley (RB9, 2015), Jordan Howard (RB9, 2016), Jeremy Hill (RB10, 2014), Christian McCaffrey (RB11, 2017), Phillip Lindsay (RB12, 2018), LeVeon Bell (RB13, 2013), Giovani Bernard (RB14, 2013), Nick Chubb (RB16, 2018) and Zac Stacy (RB20, 2013)
WR (9): Odell Beckham (WR5, 2014), Michael Thomas (WR7, 2016), Mike Evans (WR12, 2014), Kelvin Benjamin (WR15, 2014), Keenan Allen (WR18, 2013), Calvin Ridley (WR19, 2018), JuJu Smith-Schuster (WR21, 2017), Amari Cooper (WR22, 2015) and Tyreek Hill (WR22, 2016).
TE (1): Evan Engram (TE4, 2017)
Of those 27 players, 11 were drafted in the first round, seven in the second round, four in the third round, one in the fourth and three in the fifth. There was only one rookie (the undrafted Phillip Lindsay) who was available in the sixth round or later who went on to have a starter-caliber fantasy season. In sum, 22 of the 27 players (81%) were drafted in the first three rounds, so while there are a few exceptions, redraft fantasy owners should focus their attention on the highly-drafted rookies when looking for immediate value in the rookie class.
Let’s go position-by-position and discuss some of the players who figure to produce as rookies.
Kyler Murray should start immediately in Arizona, so the playing time will be there. He'll have Larry Fitzgerald, Christian Kirk and a couple of good rookie prospects (Andy Isabella, Hakeem Butler) to throw to, so the receiving corps isn't bad either. I have a regression model that I use to generate a starting point for rookie quarterbacks and Murray comes in with the highest projected touchdown percentage, the highest projected yards per attempt, the third-highest projected rushing yards per game and the fourth-highest projected rushing touchdowns in the 42-player sample. His passing numbers (in the same system at Oklahoma) were eerily similar to Baker Mayfield's and Murray is a much better runner. Keep this fact in mind—since 2011, the four top scoring rookie quarterbacks were Cam Newton (706 rushing yards, 14 touchdowns), Robert Griffin III (815 yards, 7 touchdowns), Dak Prescott (282 yards, 6 touchdowns) and Russell Wilson (489 yards, 4 touchdowns), so being able to run will really help Murray’s chances to score well as a rookie.
Depending how the Arizona offensive line comes together—they were 26th in Football Outsiders’ Adjusted Sack Rate in 2018 and haven’t done much this offseason to improve those numbers—Murray will be in the streaming conversation in his rookie season and has an outside shot at QB1 numbers.
Dwayne Haskins is very likely to start in Washington, but the receiving corps is shaky at best. He fared well in my model as well—No. 8 in projected completion %, No. 7 in projected touchdown % and No. 14 in projected yards per attempt. I don’t view him as a quality 2019 streaming option given Washington’s receivers, however.
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