Rookies That Will Make a Fantasy Impact in 2017
Now that the NFL Draft has finally 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 present a few thoughts about this year’s crop of rookies and how they might fare in the upcoming season.
First things first: rookies are typically disappointing. For every Ezekiel Elliot, there seem to be five Bishop Sankeys. In fact, over the past eight seasons, a grand total of 34 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 them:
- 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.
- RB: Doug Martin (RB2, 2012), Ezekiel Elliott (RB2, 2016), Alfred Morris (RB7, 2012), Eddie Lacy (RB7, 2013), Trent Richardson (RB8, 2012), David Johnson (RB8, 2015), Todd Gurley (RB9, 2015), 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) and Torrey Smith (WR23, 2011), Tyreek Hill (WR24, 2016)
- TE: Rob Gronkowski (TE5, 2010), Aaron Hernandez (TE11, 2010)
Of those 34 players, 15 were drafted by their teams in the first round, seven in the second, four in the third, four in the fourth, three in the fifth and one in the sixth. Twenty-six of the 34 (76%) 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 (or at least have a chance) to produce as rookies.
Don’t be that guy who’s drafting rookie QBs looking for the next Dak Prescott.
Prescott, drafted in the fifth round, is the exception that proves the rule: Rookie quarterbacks rarely make much of a fantasy impact. In the last eight years, five rookies have cracked the top 12, and three of those (Newton, Griffin III and Luck) were drafted very early in the first round. Wilson (third round) and Prescott (fifth) both landed in excellent situations where they were able to thrive without having to carry the team.
Based on situation and draft capital, Deshaun Watson looks like the best bet to work his way into QB2/streaming numbers. He only has to beat out Tom Savage, and the Houston defense is good enough that he won’t have to light up the scoreboard to win games. Bill O’Brien has coaxed good numbers out of the position before, so it wouldn’t be surprising if Watson has a solid rookie season, assuming he can win the job.
Second overall pick Mitchell Trubisky will have to beat out the capable Mike Glennon. If he does, he’ll have a suspect receiving corps to throw to. Pass.
Cody Kessler figures to start for the Browns, but if he falters, DeShone Kizer (second) could get a shot. The same goes for Nathan Peterman (fifth) who will have to usurp Tyrod Taylor. C.J Beathard (third) has Brian Hoyer ahead of him, so if the 49ers get off to a bad start, it’s not inconceivable that he gets to play down the stretch.
Continue reading for a look at the RB, WR, and TE positions, plus John's rookie draft strategy...